Gillett parents ask to end mask mandate

School board reviews mandate, prom plans
Luke Reimer

Twenty parents of children in the Gillett School District asked the school board April 15 to consider repealing the current mandate that students wear masks or face coverings while in school.

“I know that you all are going through a lot of things with all of the COVID-19 restrictions,” said Lisa Anderson, mother of two Gillett students. “But, there are a lot of health concerns for healthy people wearing masks.”

Anderson expressed her concerns about how children are getting masks.

“Masks are medical equipment,” she said. “Only health care professionals are supposed to be giving those out.”

Kim Bjelland, also a mother of two Gillett students, said she worries about the length of a school day, wearing masks almost the entire time.

“These kids come in at 8 o’clock every morning; some of them aren’t leaving until 6:30 to 7 (p.m.),” Bjelland said. “That’s almost 12 hours with a mask on their face.”

The Wisconsin Supreme Court recently ruled that Gov. Tony Evers had no right to extend the mask mandate without the state Legislature’s approval, and the statewide mandate has been allowed to expire.

“If the state Supreme Court shuts something down, it’s for a reason,” said parent Kevin Magee, also asserting that masks may not fully protect you from viruses in the air: “If this is truly about safety, everyone in here should be wearing a visor to protect their eyes, because that is a secondary way of getting any viruses.”

Superintendent Todd Hencsik said that the local mask mandate has allowed in-person classes to be held while keeping COVID numbers under control.

“We are listening to what our professionals are telling us,” Hencsik said.

The school board decided to survey faculty and staff to get feedback about continuing the mask mandate.

On a related matter, school officials told the board that freshmen and sophomores will be allowed to attend prom after all. The original plan was that prom would only be open to students in the 2021 and 2022 graduating classes.

The annual formal dance will still be limited to people from the Gillett School District, though.

“I think that we can safely conduct prom with grades 9-12,” Hencsik said.

Secondary Principal Jason Dreier said Gillett is following the example of surrounding school districts.

“For the majority of schools, what they are doing is opening up prom to just their students only, no outside guests,” Dreier said.