‘Less than ideal’: MMSD explains decision to require masks outdoors while parents prepare students for first day

The decision, announced on the eve of the first classes in the 2021-2022 beginning, has drawn both support and pushback from parents online.
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MADISON, Wis. – A spokesperson for the Madison Metropolitan School District says the decision to require masks outdoors for students too young to get the vaccine was made with safety in mind.

The decision, announced on the eve of the first classes in the 2021-2022 beginning, has drawn both support and pushback from parents online.

It’s unfortunate that they have to do it,” said Vicky Assarattanakul, whose oldest child is entering first grade “It is kind of nice to be able to just breathe in fresh air. At the same time, we support anything that’s going to keep our kid safe.”

“We appreciate how the timing of this decision is less than ideal,” said MMSD Communications Director Tim Lemonds. “We wish the evolution of this pandemic was on the same schedule, time schedule, as we all were, but that isn’t the case.”

LeMonds says the decision to require masking for students outdoors was made under the advice of four doctors from UW Health, as well as Madison Teachers Inc, the school board and superintendent.

There’s very close congregation of students (at recess),” Lemonds said. “Usually it involves physical activity, where they are breathing more heavily and these are all situations that could increase the risk of transmitting the Delta variant.”

Officials with Public Health Madison & Dane County said in a statement to News 3 Now that they were not consulted on the decision, but they do “recommend people wear face coverings outdoors in crowded spaces where distancing cannot be maintained – which would often include recess.”

My child is healthy, but I have to also consider the fact that there are children in the district who have medical concerns,”Assarattanakul said. “If I can help protect them by having my child put a piece of cloth over their face, that’s really not a big deal in the long run.”

The requirement is the latest rule put in place in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus in district schools. Earlier this week, the district’s school board unanimously passed a resolution calling for a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for all teachers and staff to help protect younger students who aren’t able to get vaccinated. The resolution asks the plan be presented for discussion by Sept. 20 so board members could vote on it as soon as Sept. 27.

MMSD students will return to school on Thursday and Friday.

“We have shown time and time again that this is a school district that is willing and ready to pivot when information comes in, when conditions improve, or in this manner, get worse,” LeMonds said.