Days after Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers ordered a statewide mask mandate, the Eau Claire school board on Monday is slated to decide if students, staff and visitors will be required to wear masks when classes resume on Sept. 1.
While Evers' statewide mask order does apply to schools — it requires masks for anyone five years or older inside all enclosed spaces except a person’s home, starting today — it currently has an expiration date of Sept. 28. An Eau Claire school district mask order could last much longer.
The statewide order "will mirror our administrative procedure/rule quite closely with minimal adjustment," said Eau Claire schools superintendent Mike Johnson on Friday in an email.
School administrators are recommending a face covering requirement for K-12 students and staff.
If the district’s mask proposal gains traction with the school board on Monday, all K-12 students would be required to wear a face covering over their noses and mouths while in school buildings and on school buses.
The requirement would apply at all times in school buildings, with a few exceptions:
- Students can take off their masks when eating or drinking and while doing physical activities approved by a physical education teacher.
- Students will be exempt from the mask requirement if they have a documented medical condition, or if they have special behavioral or individualized needs determined by the special education director.
- Other exceptions “may be made on a case-by-case basis by the superintendent for a good cause,” according to the plan.
- If students refuse to wear face coverings or masks, they could be disciplined according to school attire rules.
If approved, the district’s mask requirement would go a step beyond a schools reopening plan the board approved on July 20. Under that existing plan, masks would only be required for students and staff when physical distancing isn’t possible, and not inside classrooms.
In a statement on July 24, Johnson acknowledged that a mask requirement “may be inconvenient for our students, staff and families,” but said the district must minimize risk for people inside its buildings, as well as the broader community.
According to the proposed mask policy, district and contracted employees would also be required to wear masks inside school buildings or in other areas controlled by the district, except while eating and drinking.
- If employees have a documented medical condition, they may be exempt from wearing a mask by a school principal or superintendent.
- If employees have to take off their masks for “specific instructional needs and other activities” determined by a principal or the superintendent, they would have to maintain a distance of six feet from others.
- Employees who otherwise fail to wear a face covering could be disciplined, according to the proposal.
School administrators are also proposing a rule requiring visitors to wear masks inside school buildings, except if they have a documented medical condition.
The board will meet virtually at 6:30 p.m. Monday in closed session to discuss a personnel matter, and at 7 p.m. in open session.
Also on Monday’s agenda:
- The board will hear another update on school reopenings, this time covering equity strategies, cleaning protocols, classroom layouts and how school-level task forces will be arranged.
- The board is expected to approve one of the final steps in a solar panel project destined for Memorial and North high schools. An anonymous donor planned to donate half the solar panels for the project once funds for installation and maintenance were raised through the Eau Claire Public Schools Foundation; the board on Monday is set to accept that panel donation from the anonymous donor. The other half of the solar panels for the project were donated by the Couillard Solar Foundation.
- Administrators will update the board on the district’s open enrollment window, acceptances and denials for the 2020-21 school year.