By Shereen Siewert

Students in the Wausau School District will not be required to wear masks outdoors effective immediately, and masks indoors will be optional after the conclusion of the current school year.

Board member Jon Creisher put a motion forward to make masks optional for all students and staff effective immediately, a move that prompted applause from the audience. Karen Vandenberg agreed with Creisher’s motion but requested an amended motion to make masks optional for all outside activities effective immediately, but keeping the mask policy in place until the end of the school year when inside school buildings.

Wausau School Superintendent Keith Hilts cautioned against changing the policy to mask-optional before summer school launches, pointing out that parents signed up to send their children to summer programs with the current mask policy in place. But School Board President Pat McKee said there are also parents who chose not to send their children to summer school because of the mask policy.

Hilts said the outdoor masking issue is consistent with current policy. He also recommended communicating the change to summer school students and parents and gauge the impact on enrollment.

Board member Ka Lo pointed out that the new rules are contrary to current recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation. She voted against the measure. Lance Trollop and Jane Rusch were the other board members who voted against easing indoor mask requirements.

The new rules do not run contrary to state rules for sports. For sporting events, current WIAA rules “strongly encourage” mask use, district officials said.

The board also voted to reduce social distancing from 6 feet to 3 feet for elementary students, but did so before the mask discussion took place.