Major City Schools Reinstate Mask Mandate 1 Day After It Was Dropped

By Erika Hanson | Published

Milwaukee public schools

Smiling faces of students were seen all around the city of Milwaukee heading back to school from spring break this past Tuesday morning. Many of those smiles probably shone a bit brighter than usual, as Tuesday also marked the first day masks were now optional, not mandatory, inside all Milwaukee public schools. But by the very next day, those students who were able to finally ditch the masks were told once again to bring them out, as the district announced Tuesday night that a mandatory mask mandate was being reinstated for schools, starting the very next day. 

Shadia Kurz, a parent who has children at the Fernwood Montessori School told WISN News she didn’t know about it until she received a text message announcement at 8:45 at night. She lamented her disapproval of the decision, saying “these kids were so excited to be free of the mask.” But unfortunately for Kurz, and other parents upset with the decision, the Milwaukee public school district announced that they made the decision to mandate masks once again after they determined a significant spread of the virus within the city limits.

Milwaukee public schools

While the nation celebrated general declines in COVID cases following a grueling December, things were starting to look up. But by the end of March, a new variant, being called BA.2., became the most dominant strain of the virus in the nation, while also being described as much more transmissible than other strains. It’s the main reason many east coast major cities are considering reinstating mask mandates, and now it might be the cause for Milwaukee public schools, too. 

In the city of Milwaulkee, a key virus indicator changed from yellow to orange, revealing the city is now seeing substantial transmission of the virus, rather than the status previously seen, which was considered moderate transmission.  The determination of these indicators is decided by tracking the total number of newly reported cases in the city over 7 days. Moreso, the COVID positivity rate in the city nearly doubled over the last three weeks. But regardless of what COVID trackers are showing in data, parents are upset and confused, considering the superintendent of Milwaukee public schools never consulted with the city’s health department before making the decision to bring the masks back to schools.

Milwaukee public schools

Further upsetting parents, not only did the Milwaukee public schools superintendent not discuss the plan with health officials first, but he also went against the district’s policy regarding margins for returning to mask mandates. According to WISN, the district hasn’t reached that rate yet. And even though the sudden change has led to more confusion for students and parents, the decision ultimately is in the hands of the superintendent. In March, the district’s board voted unanimously to give the administration the ability to make COVID protocol changes at any time. 

While the great debate on mask mandates has raged on since the very beginning of the pandemic, it is further fueled by the fact that even the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has now changed guidelines. Recently, the CDC amended safety protocols and guidelines for COVID to emphasize hospitalization numbers over case counts when setting parameters for preventative measures, such as masks. In the city, COVID hospitalization rates remain steadily low. It is unknown for now how long Milwaukee public schools will keep the mask mandate in place, but it has surely ruffled a lot of feathers.