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WUWM's Emily Files reports on education in southeastern Wisconsin.

MPS: 'Substantial transmission' of COVID in Milwaukee prompted sudden reversal of mask policy

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Emily Files
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WUWM
Some students went without masks at Maryland Avenue Montessori April 19, before MPS retracted its mask-optional policy.

MPS made masks optional for one school day before reversing its decision late Tuesday night, which caused confusion for families.

On Wednesday, Superintendent Keith Posley spoke to the media about the reversal.

Posley said the main metric MPS is using to determine its mask policy is the city of Milwaukee’s COVID case burden. The Milwaukee Health Department updates that data publicly every Tuesday and Thursday. When it was updated this Tuesday, Milwaukee had moved from the “moderate transmission” category to “substantial transmission," with 58 cases per 100,000 people.

That, Posley said, triggered the eleventh-hour decision.

"This was something that was made perfectly clear to our school community around case burden and positivity rate," Posley said. "And if it moved to substantial transmission, the district would revert to a mandatory mask policy."

When asked whether Posley regretted doing away with the mask mandate for one day and creating confusion, he didn’t answer directly.

"It has been a very difficult journey tracking and working with the virus — the frustration has been there," Posley said.

Posley said he understood the frustration from parents, but that safety was MPS’s first priority.

One frustrated parent is Porsha Garrett, whose 8-year-old son was excited to not wear a mask Tuesday.

"It was kind of like teasing the kids, saying you have candy but then not giving it to them," Garrett said. "You got them all excited for one day and now they’re back to wearing masks again. And everyone seems to be confused as to why."

It’s unclear when MPS might go mask-optional again. Posley said MPS would be following the community transmission rates and its own data on staff and student cases. He said he hoped there wouldn’t be any more sudden changes.

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