The Madison School District will keep its current mask mandate for students, staff and visitors while inside school buildings in place until May, the district announced Friday.
The district plans to reevaluate and provide an update May 6 on whether masks will continue to be required at that point. Madison is one of the last remaining districts in Dane County to still have a mask mandate in place after others relaxed their policies.
“(The school district’s) main goal is to keep schools open and scholars learning safely in-person,” the district said in a statement. “(The district) strongly believes this is in the best interest of students, families, staff and the community.”
Madison’s decision to extend the mandate was made after meetings between district staff and medical advisers, who recommended continuing to mask up indoors, the district said.
The district said masks continue to be an effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19, especially as cases start to tick up in Dane County. Over the last four weeks, the seven-day average of new cases has more than doubled in Dane County from 60 cases on March 17 to 133 on Thursday, according to Public Health Madison and Dane County. Nationally, health experts are preparing for another COVID surge.
A spike in COVID-19 cases in January after winter break exacerbated school staffing shortages and prompted the district to delay its return to in-person learning. The district said it wants to avoid similar problems if there’s another spike.
With COVID still out there, immunocompromised worry about life after mask mandates
Co-curricular and Madison School & Community Recreation Cares participants and officials will be able to unmask indoors when actively competing in a sporting event or performing. Spectators and coaches are required to continue wearing masks indoors.
Most other Dane County school districts shifted their masking protocol to strongly recommend, as opposed to require, face coverings while in school buildings on March 1, when the Public Health Madison and Dane County emergency masking order expired.
The decision by the city-county health department to lift the mask order was announced earlier in February, after several Democratic governors moved to ease up on mask mandates even as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it still recommended masks for students and staff inside school buildings.
Madison school district to slightly relax some COVID protocols
The Madison School District noted that its mask protocol is in alignment with the CDC’s mask mandate for public transportation, which is also in effect until the beginning of May.
“The extension provides additional time to monitor the current surge while continuing to safeguard against viral spread by wearing masks indoors in advance of a May decision,” the district said.
1 of 10
John Givens and Rosemary Franke
John Givens shares an embrace with Rosemary Franke, the widow of his long-time friend Tom Franke, at her home in Stoughton. Tom Franke wrote a tribute to his friend's resilience shortly before passing away.
John Givens and Tom Franke in 2021
Tom Franke's tribute to John Givens:
This is a story of a man’s resilience from middle-class black America to success. John Givens, now living in Madison, was born in 1947 in Natchez, Mississippi, to a solid family consisting of an aunt, one brother and two sisters.
His father was a railroad man and good provider. His childhood was normal as was his boyhood. At age 18, he joined the army. He was deployed to Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Thailand), during which he became addicted to heroin.
Upon returning to the U.S. and discharging from the service, he took up with bad men that led to his participation in an armed robbery. He was soon apprehended by the police, charged with armed robbery, and served eight years in prison. He learned “the ropes” quickly and decided not to fight the system but to take advantage of it. He took college-level classes, which led to a degree in business.
When John was finally released from prison, he applied for a position with the “SPRITE” states youth program, caring for and mentoring young boys who had gone astray. John formed his own office computer supply business. John then turned his attention to social service. He applied for a position as director of the “Circle of Support” program offered by JustDane (formerly Madison-area Urban Ministry), and he was hired.
His background was the cliché, “He walked the walk and talked the talk” to his charges, who were imprisoned in Dane County. In the 12+ years he has held this position, he has helped thousands of offenders to make the transition from incarceration to become valued members of our society. John assists these men and women in finding housing, employment, transportation, clothing, telephones and other resources such as food pantries, religious organizations, medical care, etc. His success rate of recidivism utilizing the “circle of support” concept stands at 94%. Take a note, politicians, your hard stance on punishment is not working!
In his personal life, John is married to a wonderful woman, Alice Diane Brenann, whom he met on a blind date. Now, 43 years later, they have raised three children and reside on the northwest side of Madison.
At age 75, I asked John when he would retire. His response was, “Why would I retire when I enjoy what I am doing?”
I personally count John as one of my best friends, mentor and role model.
Olive Pulvermacher and her family
My grandmother, Olive (Pulvermacher) Phillips, died in 1967 when I was a teen. She was born in 1891 in Roxbury, Wisconsin, one of 16 children. Shortly after graduating from St. Francis School of Nursing in La Crosse, she experienced firsthand the challenges of the Spanish influenza pandemic.
Following their marriage on Nov. 11, 1918 — Armistice Day — my grandfather, Morton, apprenticed to become a barber. They moved to Wabasha, Minnesota, and had five children. One son died from diphtheria as a toddler. A second tragedy followed. In their small apartment above the barber shop, my grandfather died in the night of a heart attack in 1932. After burying him, my grandmother hitchhiked back to Wisconsin. In the midst of the Great Depression, a relative drove her back to Minnesota in an old pickup truck to collect her young children and their few belongings.
Initially she worked in the butcher shop/gas station/tavern below the little Roxbury apartment where the family first settled. Before long they had moved many times. Each successive move was to a bit larger apartment in Madison. My grandmother worked hard to make ends meet. Eventually she worked for UW President Edwin Fred as the “house mother” for a student rooming house he owned. Impressed with her ability, President Fred and his wife eventually sold the rooming house to her.
I have both precious memories of my grandmother and her treasured wedding ring, inscribed with their wedding date. But I would love to be able to converse with her today and hear her reflections about how she survived and thrived in spite of many major life challenges. I can only imagine that a mother’s love, her strong faith and deep compassion for the poor guided Olive Phillips’ decisions and life journey.
— Susan Payne, 70, retired RN, Cottage Grove
Bernard and Hazel Larson on their wedding day
My parents were strong, hardworking, resilient people who taught me by example. Their life experiences shaped my own strengths and resilience, and for that I am grateful. COVID made me question how they — the “Greatest Generation” — would have reacted to the pandemic. I think strong and determined, just as they lived their lives.
My mother, Hazel Mell Larson, was born in Wisconsin in 1918, the oldest of six children. Faced with the tough times of the Depression, the family moved to Chicago in the late 1920s. My mother lived in Chicago until she was a young adult, returned to Madison to live with her maternal grandparents, and went to work at the Community Laundry. Although she did not finish high school, it was always her goal, and she eventually earned her GED.
My parents married in 1938. My dad, Bernard Larson, grew up in the Town of Burke, in an exceptionally large farm family — 14 children. The older kids worked in the fields, particularly during the tobacco season. He, too, dropped out of high school because fall was harvest time and he fell too far behind in his classes. Tobacco was their main crop and as a result, my grandfather became a successful farmer.
I was born in 1942, just following the attack on Pearl Harbor. In 1943, with a loan from a “best friend,” my parents purchased a house on the East Side of Madison. They never forgot that friend’s generosity and often talked about it. Throughout their lives, mom and dad were always there for anyone in need — friend or stranger.
Our house was close to Truax Field, and in the 1940s, the base needed housing for married personnel. My parents responded and we frequently had a young military family living with us. I have memories and pictures of that time and often wonder how we all managed in such a small house with one bathroom! Mom and dad were patriots, and this was a way for them to support the war effort.
President Franklin Roosevelt also had a long-standing influence on the times and the political leanings of Americans like my parents. I think of them as “Roosevelt Democrats” who supported the New Deal agenda and understood the sacrifices demanded during the war years. They accepted whatever challenge or hardship came their way. They were the “Greatest Generation.”
— Jan Somerfeld, 79, Madison
Fredericka Marie Caroline Biederstaedt
My great grandfather, Johan Frederick Theodor Hasselmann, came to America in 1864 with his first wife, Johana Caroline Dorothea Biederstedt, and their daughter, Fredericka. Caroline was already sick with tuberculosis, and later died in May of 1866, leaving Johan (John) in a new land, not speaking English, with or without his later zinc factory job, and with a child to raise. Keep in mind the Civil War was still a factor, and immigration levels were down, generally.
Being a resourceful man, he sent back to Germany for Caroline's sister, Fredericka Marie Caroline, and she gladly came to America in November of 1866 to join John. She became his second wife 16 days later, and they settled in the LaSalle/Peru area of Illinois where John's brother, Louis, who had come to America in 1862, also lived. The family prospered, and produced nine children of their own.
— Joyce Hasselman Waldorf, 84, Madison
Book of savings stamps
Aloma Dolan grew up in Westfield and was living in Oshkosh with her family in 1941 when America entered World War II. She was just 10 years old when her father came home from work on Dec. 7, 1941, saying he heard America had just declared war on Japan because of the attack on Pearl Harbor. There was talk of little else for some time to come.
Most of Aloma’s neighbors had a family member in some branch of the service during the war, unless they were farmers. Aloma and her sister June wrote to and mailed care packages to several soldiers they knew. They even wrote to two other soldiers whose names and addresses were given to them by their school.
Aloma’s parents had rationing books which covered a lot of different things like food, clothing, gasoline and other things. Aloma recounted numerous cookbooks written during the war which showed how to substitute for food that was rationed. She really missed having enough sugar for cooking and baking.
Aloma said she believes her neighbors may have started the first car pool back during the gas rationing times. Everyone had gardens, saved grease in tin cans and once a month a truck would come and pick up things donated. Children bought saving stamps for 10 cents each in school and put them in books like the photos shown here. Eventually, when the book was full, they received a bond for them.
Aloma’s mother, Bonita, volunteered many hours working for a community blood drive. She also helped at Aloma’s school sponsoring a “care package” clinic that helped people decide what to send to servicemen.
Aloma’s father listened to the news each evening on their Philco Radio. Gabriel Heatter was the commentator who was known worldwide. Aloma’s father insisted Aloma and June listen to the news as well. In current events class, there was a daily discussion on what was happening in the world and how they could each do their part to help the efforts. Aloma and June both joined The Civil Air Patrol Corps. She says they felt very important wearing their uniforms. Aloma’s mom also volunteered to help the Civil Air Patrol Corps and did a lot of carpooling.
Aloma recalls that the war made a lot of families closer together as it was frightening to imagine what their lives would be like if America lost the war. Whenever she talked to servicemen about what conditions were like elsewhere, it made her realize how lucky she and her family were to live in a free country.
At 90 years old, Aloma Dolan has lived through several wars, the Cold War, and "conflicts," which she says is just another name for war. She saw relatives including her husband, son-in-law and several grandchildren enter the Armed Forces and has been fortunate to see each one come home. Her fervent prayer is for America to stay a free nation and to stay free from war.
— Aloma Dolan, 90, Columbus, as told to her daughter, Marlene Dreifke
Dianne Treichel's grampa, Dick Glissendorf
My grampa, Dick Glissendorf, was born in Milwaukee in 1892, but lived most of his life in Phillips, Wisconsin. He wrote a booklet called, "A Stump Sitter Reminiscing," which I'll quote from in the last paragraph. He spent years trapping in the woods, including, in one six-month period, 48 beaver, two fox, 40 mink and 400 muskrats.
One incident demonstrating resilience is quoted here from his booklet:
"In winter, off and on, we would break through the ice. We had to watch our beaver dams, as where there was spring water the ice would thaw from the bottom. On these we carried a pole, about 10 feet long, by the middle. If one of us broke through, the other would reach to him with his pole and pull him out. If the water is say 4 to 5 feet deep, it is not easy to get out with snowshoes on. We always carried an extra pair of wool socks. If we did break in, we made a fire and took off our wet socks and pants. Underwear we kept on, and turned first one side and then the other to the fire. Quite an experience — try it sometime at 35 or 40 degrees below. One side would be hot, the other freezing ice."
— Dianne Treichel, 80, Fitchburg
Margaret Lorraine Bearden on her 100th birthday
This picture was taken of my mother on her 100th birthday. Margaret Lorraine Bearden (Gundlach) was born on Aug. 7, 1921, and passed away Dec. 7, 2021. One of America’s “Greatest Generation,” she experienced the Great Depression as a young child and endured a worldwide pandemic in her final years. Many months in assisted living were spent isolated from family until all could be fully vaccinated and hug and visit once again. Her family and friends were overjoyed to celebrate her 100th birthday outside on a beautiful day at her family home. She was even able to meet her five-month-old great grandchild from Georgia.
Her life is a testament to the challenges overcome by a generation, many long passed, who stood strong in adversity and thrived giving way to the cherished childhood many of us boomers enjoyed.
During the early days of the pandemic it was my mother who told me to listen to the experts and follow their guidance and we would all be OK. She told me not to worry about her but do what I needed to do to keep my family safe. The long days early in the pandemic gave me the chance I had previously overlooked to call and talk to my mother about her life, her losses, her experiences. I will cherish those talks and will share her story with my children and grandchildren.
— Melanie Luft, 64, Madison
Jean Muckian's father
My father, Norbert Rasmussen, was a U.S. Army master sergeant during World War II. He was captured in Italy on Dec. 14, 1943, by the Germans and, after being forced to surrender his boots, was marched across the Alps to a prisoner of war camp in Germany. He was beaten and starved. I don’t know the specifics of his captivity, but I do know that my father spent Christmas 1943 behind enemy lines.
However, as children, my siblings and I never knew of the horrors he experienced and why Christmas was always a difficult season for him. But Christmas in our childhood home was filled with joy, laughter, lights and good food. Santa Claus always arrived with wonderful presents. Every year, Christmas Eve ended with Midnight Mass, where my father often sang a solo version of “O Come All Ye Faithful” in the choir. He seemed to be the very essence of the Christmas spirit.
I am one of 10 children, and we first learned the details of my father’s prisoner-of-war experience in 1994 when he was finally diagnosed at age 73 with PTSD at the Milwaukee VA Hospital. It was only then that he could speak of what had happened to him so many years ago. He taught us all the meaning of the word resilience.
I have included a newspaper clipping that illustrates his resourcefulness, if not resilience.
— Jean Muckian, 70, Madison
Jean Muckian discovered this newspaper brief written about her father, a World War II POW.