WRPS board votes to keep mask requirements
By City Times staff
WISCONSIN RAPIDS – During the May 10 Wisconsin Rapids Public School (WRPS) board meeting, members unanimously voted to keep current face mask requirements in place.
Public comments saw those speaking for and against the mask requirement, including two sophomore students from Lincoln High School, who gathered 800 signatures in favor of making masks optional.
“In this petition, we are excited to see two health and physical education teachers in this district were willing to sign this for the many students wanting a choice in this matter,” Destinee Steinhafel stated.
Fifth grade teacher, Samantha Franz asked to give students and guardians a choice.
“We are a community of many voices, opinions, experiences, and parenting styles that lend to the uniqueness of our community. All of this provides our children an idea of how a multi-faceted group of people can still work, play, and celebrate together. Taking choice out of the hands of guardians is not showing our belief and intellectual decision making. In the classroom, smiles and facial recognition and goofy, playful faces are hidden under masks,” she said.
“Gone are the community-building group and partner activities; gone are the traditional field trips and experiential learning opportunities. Some say we do this to protect all. I would say that we can do that without taking away guardian and student choice.”
Gina Casper, Wisconsin Rapids, said that students were “utterly defenseless against this tyrannical and unconstitutional practice of masking in our schools. I am here to make sure that the children get a voice tonight. To make our young people wear these filthy masks and breathe in their own exhaust for seven hours a day is no less despicable. It’s an atrocity, it’s inhumane, and it is complete and total child abuse.”
Several local health professional were present that evening to weigh in on the matter for the school board and those present
Wood County Health Director Sue Kunferman spoke on the new and stronger variants of COVID.
“In the past few weeks, Wisconsin and Wood County are seeing more cases in individuals under the age of 18, then any other age group, which has changed from the beginning of this pandemic,” she said.
“Over the course of the last year, Wisconsin schools, including the Wisconsin Rapids school district developed robust and effective mitigation protocols that have helped prevent in-school spread of COVID-19 and that has helped keep our schools open.”
Board President John Krings spoke in support of the existing requirement.
“We’ve been fortunate; we haven’t had an outbreak. I think the reason we’ve been fortunate is because of the mitigation practices we’ve put in place,” he said.
Most board members spoke in favor of leaving the mask requirements as is leading up to the vote, including Larry Davis who stressed the importance of respecting others while keeping standards in a manner to allow all kids in the classroom.
“I think what we need to do in this process is, in a democratic way, have respect for everyone and treat them with respect,” he said.
“This was a tough year for educators. They had to, in a month, learn a total new way to teach. In the meantime, they had to do a whole lot of extra tasks.
“It’s never been more clear to me, we do make a difference. Kids learn best in a classroom with a caring educator. They are not as successful in the virtual setting; they have all kinds of struggles.”