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School District of La Crosse considering masking for all students

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With local coronavirus cases on the rise, the School District of La Crosse is considering requiring masks for all students at the start to the fall semester, a change from the previous policy.

School mask

Southern Bluffs Elementary kindergartener Sam Turner wears a mask Jan. 20, when the School District of La Crosse returned to in-person learning for some elementary students. 

While the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics have recommended face coverings in schools regardless of age or vaccination status, the school district follows the Harvard Global Health Institute guidelines. Under GHI guidance, current policy requires masks for those in grades 4-7 when case rates are over 2 per 100,000 per day, but will not be enforced for grades 8-12.

However, the three-day case average from Tuesday through Thursday was 10.5, placing the area in the Harvard model’s orange category.

“Given this accelerating level of spread, we are considering additional mitigation strategies for our students and staff. This includes considering requiring masking while indoors for all students, including eighth- through 12th-grade students. We want all students to be able to remain in-person to learn,” superintendent Aaron Engel said in a note to families Friday.

School staff are currently required to wear masks.

Engel encouraged adults to be vaccinated and to have children over 12, for whom the Pfizer vaccine is approved, get their shots as well.

“This is the number way to reduce cases in our community and avoid mask mandates. We have a couple of weeks to monitor the situation before the start of our regular school year and will update families as we approach Sept. 1,” Engel said.

The district is working with the Department of Health Services and a local vendor to provide free PCR and antigen COVID testing to staff and students, with parent consent. More information will be shared as plans develop.

“We are adapting to the situation as it changes and doing our best to keep students and staff safe and learning in school,” Engel said.

Emily Pyrek can be reached at emily.pyrek@lee.net.

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