MADISON — Parents in the Waterford Graded School District are furious that Superintendent Ed Brzinski issued an 11th-hour mask mandate and then segregated students who attended without masks.
The district sent out an email at 11:18 a.m. Friday stating the mask order would go into effect on Monday, according to a frustrated parent who first reached out to conservative talk show host Vicki McKenna.
Universal masking in all Waterford Graded School District schools, for both students and staff, will remain in effect through the end of the month, with a review of the school district COVID-19 data at that time, according to the letter obtained by Empower Wisconsin.
A parent of a student at the district’s Fox River Middle School said children without masks were sent to the library and then segregated into smaller groups around the building. Many were isolated.
“These kids are being denied a fair and appropriate education. They were given chromebooks, but to quote my child ‘we have done literally nothing all day,’” the parent said. “They apparently get checked on once an hour or so.”
The segregated students were not allowed to eat lunch with others or go outside, even though the rest of the student body doesn’t have to wear masks during lunch or recess, the parent added.
Asked about the mandate and the claims that mask-less students were segregated, Brzinski only responded with a copy of the district letter.
It notes that the district has used evolving local and state statistical data and standards of public health “to make the best choices for our students, staff and families.” Basic and reasonable measures have been in place this fall, the letter asserts, including social-distancing, encouraging mask wearing for adults not fully vaccinated, “masking musical instruments,” and expecting ill students and staff to stay home.
“We must also be ready to pivot as conditions change,” the letter states.
The administration cites seven cases of COVID at the middle school, with one probable in-class transmission, in the previous eight days. As of Sept. 15, the letter states, 14 students were out of school due to COVID or exposures. An additional 17 students were out “sick” with unrelated illnesses.
Students are coming down with COVID outside of school in groups or family interactions, administration asserts. Unmasked students are increasing the likelihood of virus spread, the letter warns.
“Unfortunately, the volume of cases and contact tracing for WGSD is no longer manageable. However, using all of our mitigation practices will keep our students in school and reduce or avoid the potential for virtual instruction.”
Critics say the mask mandate is excessive and segregating students amounts to separate-but-unequal education.