By Shereen Siewert

Members of the Wausau School Board on Monday will revisit the district’s mask policy, part of an ongoing discussion on student safety and COVID-19.

Wausau School Board President Pat McKee said the agenda item was not requested by an individual board member. But two board members on opposite sides of the issue, Jon Creisher and Jane Rusch, requested a host of documents be included for review.

Creisher, who was elected to the board in April, was a vocal opponent of the board’s decision to begin the school year virtually. Rusch has consistently voted against easing COVID-19 protocols and restrictions throughout the school year.

In Creisher’s documents, he points to 39 districts around the state in which masks are optional and notes the downward trend of average cases county-wide. Currently, mask use is mandatory in Wausau.

“At the peak…within WSD boundaries according to DHS data, we were at a 7-day average for positive cases of 78,” Creisher wrote. “Since our peak in November this 7-day average has quickly fallen. As of last week our 7-day average was at 10.” 

But Rusch, in her own set of documents, points to recent trends in COVID-19 in children along with new recommendations by UW Health, the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, and other health organizations that call for increased vigilance as cases increase in number and severity among children nationwide.

The Republican Party of Marathon County issued an email last week urging party members to show up at Monday’s meeting to support a move ending the mandate.

“You can rest assured the extreme liberal, anti-freedom left will be there in force…” Marathon County GOP Chair Jack Hoogendyk wrote in his email, referring to Rusch’s data as continuing to “clamp down on the freedom of children and their parents to choose.”

“Project Relaunch has been, and will continue to be, an agenda item each meeting for the foreseeable future,” McKee said. “Masking requirements are part of Project Relaunch discussion so it’s possible that administration will have new information and/or recommendations for the board to consider.”

District administrators are recommending keeping the mask rule in place, according to WSD documents. The current school year will end in less than a month.

Monday’s meeting is set for 5 p.m. at Horace Mann Middle School, 3101 N. 13th St., Wausau. See the full agenda and options for attending the meeting at this link.