Prairie du Chien School Board votes to keep mask mandate

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District Administrator Andy Banasik, Kim Maier of Southwest Wisconsin Technical College and High School Principal Paul Weisse hold a banner from SWTC showing that Prairie du Chien is a Platinum school regarding Dual Credit participation levels. (Photo submitted)

By Ted Pennekamp

 

During its regular meeting Monday night, the Prairie du Chien School Board voted 3-2 to continue with the school district’s policy of mandating masks as part of the COVID-19 protocol. 

A motion by board member Dustin Brewer recommended for parents to have a choice on whether their child should wear a mask or not. Cassie Hubanks, Nick Gilberts and Michael Higgins voted to keep the mask mandate. Board President Lonnie Achenbach and Brewer voted to have parents make the choice. Board members Lynn O’Kane and Tom Peterson were absent.

Prior to the vote, two parents spoke to the board about the mask policy and the quarantine policy. There were about 10 parents in the audience, some of whom held up “Parents Choice” signs. 

“I’m in favor of things that make sense,” said parent Carrie Perkins in part of her address to the board. Perkins said she is not necessarily opposed to masks, but some things don’t make sense, such as students in close proximity in the cafeteria eating lunch and talking without masks, while they have to have masks on the rest of the school day. Perkins also said quarantining students is a waste of time. She also wondered why a student sitting behind a positive COVID student had to be quarantined, while the students diagonally in front of the positive COVID student did not.

Parent Amber Poole said she is not in favor of masks, and that it should be up to the parents whether or not their student(s) wears a mask. Poole said there are substances in different kinds of masks that can cause various infections and numerous symptoms.

“Masks are more risky than COVID,” Poole said. He urged the board to vote against the forced wearing of masks.

Superintendent Andy Banasik said there are 13 students with active cases of COVID (one in B.A. Kennedy, eight in Bluff View, and four at the high school). He also said that as of Friday, Oct. 8, there were 112 students in the district who are under quarantine. He said he realizes parents are frustrated with the quarantines, but the district continues to work hard to do all it can, and would like to continue with face-to-face learning. He said the district is following Centers for Disease Control guidelines. Banasik recommended that the board vote to keep the mask mandate in all three schools.

Board member Cassie Hubanks expressed frustration with the quarantines and said many students are missing a significant amount of school time. Hubanks said the board should look into shorter quarantine times.

Parent Amber Poole said she agrees with Hubanks that the district should look into having shorter quarantines. Poole also asked why the seventh and eighth-grade football teams were quarantined and the high school team was not, even though, according to Poole, the high school football coach was positive for COVID during a recent game.

A few moments later, Board President Lonnie Achenbach said he would also like to hear the answer to that question. Banasik said the first time he heard of the high school coach possibly being positive for COVID was when Poole brought it up a few minutes earlier.

After the motion to have parents make the choice regarding masks failed, Hubanks made a motion to have the district review the possibility of having shortened quarantine times. The motion passed 5-0.

In other business, the board approved a resolution regarding 2021-2022 retirement compensation. Open retirement for teachers is $150 per day for unused sick days up to a maximum of 120 days but will not exceed $18,000. Support staff get $90 a day for unused sick days, up to a maximum of 120 days but not to exceed $10,800.

Near the start of the meeting Monday night, the board heard a presentation by Kim Maier of Southwest Wisconsin Technical College. Maier said Prairie du Chien is a leader regarding the Dual Credit program as well as the Start College Now program, and offers a wide variety of these types of courses. Maier said, this year, Prairie du Chien students have gained a total of 1,890 college credits and saved $287,250 in tuition costs. She said these numbers are very impressive and presented the Prairie du Chien School District with a banner to be displayed in the school.

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