Editorial: School Board Decision Threatens Students’ Safety


The Editorial Staff

The Wauwatosa School Board voted 5-1 on Monday, December 13th to move secondary schools from Level 3 mitigation to Level 2. Beginning on January 3rd, 2022, masks will be optional for both vaccinated and unvaccinated students and staff at Tosa East and West High schools. Although the Tosa Compass recognizes the School Board’s effort to advance the district in terms of COVID-19 restriction, it is a student publication, and therefore holds student well-being as its first interest and priority. The Tosa Compass maintains that the Wauwatosa School Board’s decision to lower mitigation levels irresponsibly places the health of students and staff at risk.

The approved shift makes masks optional for all vaccinated students and staff, and ‘strongly encouraged’, but not required, for unvaccinated students and staff. The quarantine policy will also change, with all unvaccinated students and staff in a given class being placed under quarantine when a positive case is reported in said class.

Lowering measures that are meant to slow the spread of COVID-19 is illogical given recent trends, and is creating unnecessary risk in the Wauwatosa community. This decision can be explained by outside pressure on the board to dissolve the requirement of masks.

Wauwatosa East High School is currently experiencing an increase in positive COVID-19 cases among students, reflecting the increasing rate of COVID-19 cases in Milwaukee County. The number of reported COVID-19 cases per day in Milwaukee County has increased by 142% from the first two weeks of December 2021. Wisconsin’s COVID-19 related hospitalizations are the highest they have been since January of 2021, before the vaccine was available to the majority of the population. On the district’s website the community case burden is described as “high”, a label that should be associated with mitigation level 4.

The shift to level 2 runs contrary to how the board should respond to local case trends. Other school boards in the area have recently evolved their policies based on infection rates, a much more rational approach.

The Mequon Thiensville School District started its school year with a policy that made masking optional for students and staff. They saw rising cases in their district and community, and therefore made the decision to tighten their rules. As of December 16th, they will require masks indoors for all people, regardless of vaccination status.

Similar to School Boards across the country, the Wauwatosa School Board faces pressure from parents. The meeting on Monday featured community comments from a number of parents, most of which were pushing for mask mandates to be dropped, and several of which were themselves unmasked. 

Students, staff and community members are all anxious to get back to ‘normal’. Superintendent Demond Means spoke at the meeting about how exciting the boys’ East-West basketball game was and how under Level 2, more people will be able to attend similar events.

While the hunger to return to large events and gatherings is widespread and large, it’s imperative to remain cautious. 

Shortly after the East-West boys’ basketball game, an East game against Marquette was postponed due to positive cases and quarantines on the team. Practically, allowing more spectators at athletic events and dissolving mask requirements will increase cancellations and shutdowns instead of marking a return to pre-pandemic ‘normal’.

Though parents and community members may be frustrated with ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, it’s the responsibility of the School Board to do what is best for the health and safety of students and staff. Public opinion has a place in School Board meetings, but should not override scientific trends. The Tosa Compass stands with many students’ sentiments against the decision to dissolve mask requirements, which unnecessarily puts students and staff at risk.