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Masks will continue to be required in Madison School District through May

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First day in person

Allis Elementary staff members Sam Cox and Erica Dyslin direct kindergartner Jasmine Allen toward her teacher in March 2021 on the first day of in-person classes for kindergarten students in the Madison School District. Now, more than a year later, the district announced it will continue to require masks in school buildings until at least May. 

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.

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.

Other districts

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.

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.

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Elizabeth Beyer is a digital producer for the Wisconsin State Journal. She joined the team in 2019 and was formerly a data, video and audio reporter at the La Crosse Tribune.

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