Beaver Dam Unified School Board heard concerns from residents who were frustrated with the mask mandate in schools with several questioning how much benefit the masks had for the students wearing them and what the students might miss while wearing masks the entire school day.
Over 100 people attended the meeting with many of them protesting outside the school prior to the meeting. A quarter of those in attendance spoke to the board during the public comment period. None issued statements in favor of the mask mandate which has been in effect in Beaver Dam schools since the start of the school year.
Joel Posthuma spoke about his son not being able to attend class the first two days of the school year because he was not willing to wear a mask. Posthuma said his son had issues with the masks, and he was homeschooled the previous year because of being unable to wear a mask.
“This year, he chose to go to school because he wanted to,” Posthuma said. “He wanted to be with his friends. He can’t wear a mask. His face breaks out, he starts throwing up. He has issues with it.”
Posthuma said he was really upset with the board going against what the constituents wants, and he said he felt the child’s rights for equality in education was denied.
Rush L’Hullier said both of his sons were denied to go to classes due to the family’s stance on the mask mandate. L’Hullier said that he did not feel that his oldest was treated fairly at the high school.
“You are supposed to do the research,” L’Hullier said. “You are supposed to represent the people, and you failed to do so miserably. The majority of this town is against you and will be gunning for your seat. You knew the majority of this town was against the masks and you didn’t care.”
“I understand both sides of the issue,” Dan Kuhnz said, who handed the board a petition with around 620 people who had signed saying they were against the mask mandate in Beaver Dam. “I understand some people feel safe wearing a mask, but I understand that it is human nature for parents to want autonomy over their children’s bodies. I appreciate the board’s desire to want to do the best for the kids, but this is an attempt by this board to make itself feel noble.”
Kuhnz said it was a struggle for many students including one of his children who had an individualized education program for speech therapy.
“His development has absolutely, 100 percent struggled,” Kuhnz said. “He cannot see people in school talking. He cannot appropriately pronounced the words under his masks.”
Kuhnz said he has asked for an exemption for his son, but it was not approved.
Nikki Garcia-Henke said that she was baffled by the mask mandate not starting until two weeks after the school board made that decision.
“During that two week time, there were literally hundreds of people in our facilities – staff, students, families of all kinds,” Garcia-Henke said. “Even the night before school started. Where did those germs go?”
Board president Chad Prieve thanked those in attendance for being civil, but the board did not further discuss masks during the meeting. Superintendent Mark DiStefano did give the board the monthly update about the district operating during the pandemic.
DiStefano said that Dodge County is currently in Phase 3. In the district boundaries, there were 77 confirmed cases of COVID In the last week. Seventy-nine percent of those are over the age of 20 years old. As of Monday, DiStefano said that Beaver Dam Unified School District had 19 students and 2 adults who tested positive for COVID. Another area school district that did not use masks and was at a similar size as Beaver Dam had 40 students and five adults who tested positive.
DiStefano said that he is considering some changes with masks including: improving distancing opportunities, regulating the mask breaks for the students, and consider not requiring masks when students are in competition.