Verona Area School District students head to summer classes

Students create garden glove paintings in Lois Feiner’s summer school art class on Tuesday, July 6, at Badger Ridge Middle School. Summer school for all grades will run through July 30.

Verona Area School District families will need to add face coverings to their school supply lists.

The district announced in a tweet on Wednesday, Aug. 4, that it would be requiring masks for all students, staff and visitors while inside campus buildings and on buses, and strongly recommending them while in close quarters outdoors. District superintendent Tremayne Clardy had hinted at the July 26 Verona Area Board of Education meeting that the district would make a final decision on masking requirements for fall no later than Friday, Aug. 6.

District public information officer Raechelle Belli told the Press on Wednesday that the district believes that having universal masking is the best way to keep students in school full-time.

“We based our decision on the most current recommendations,” she said. “We fully believe that universal masking is the most effective way for controlling the spread, to allow our students to return to school five days a week … that is our primary goal to make sure students get back in school.”

In a letter sent home to families, the district cites rising cases of COVID-19 driven by the Delta variant, which has been found to be more transmissible and can be spread by those who are vaccinated. Dane County, which had been seeing a handful of cases newly identified each day in June, is seeing an average of 69 new cases of COVID-19 a day as of Aug. 4, with over 90% of those cases being identified as the Delta strain.

VASD joins the Madison Metropolitan, Middleton-Cross Plains and Stoughton Area school districts in mandating masks to be worn indoors for all people, regardless of vaccination status. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Public Health Madison and Dane County recommend having universal masking in place within school buildings, and should a school district opt to make masks optional, it would be required to have its students quarantined for a minimum of six days if they are a close contact. If a district opts for universal masking, students and staff who are masked who are close contacts do not have to quarantine, PHMDC requirements state.

The district will have students return to in-person instruction five days a week starting Sept. 1, and will continue to have a focus on proper hygiene etiquette and vaccination promotion, the announcement states. Anyone who is experiencing symptoms of illness will be required to stay home, and rapid COVID-19 testing will be available for both students and staff.

Belli told the Press the decision to require masks was made based on recommendations from county health staff, the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics and both the state and federal education departments, all of which recommend universal masking for the start of the fall school year and having students attend in-person five days a week.

“We are following the science, we are following the recommendations of the medical experts in this field,” she said.

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