Salem School Board rejects additional COVID-19 safety protocols; will set another meeting to consider again

The Salem School District Board in a split vote rejected implementing additional COVID-19 safety protocols recommended by the administration at a special meeting Thursday at the school.

The proposal under consideration Thursday was rejected by a 2 to 3 vote, with members Ted Goergen and Nick Pauloni voting for implementing the protocols and members Dana Powers, Steve Brown and Jack Niccolai voting against.

The proposed protocols created four levels, based on the number of active cases at schools. The third level –called orange — would be implemented when there were 12 to 22 cases. It called for some mandatory masking. Full mandatory masking would be implemented at the fourth or red level of 23 or greater active cases. At 33 active cases, Kenosha County Public Health can impose virtual schooling, school officials say.

“Our number one goal is to avoid having our students go to virtual education,” said district administrator Connie Valenza, who said she has heard from many individuals on both sides of the issue. “Our goal was to try to find a way to compromise … by keeping our students in-person and keeping them safe.”

The full proposed protocols can be viewed here.

After lengthy discussion of over two hours, board member Nick Pauloni moved to adopt the administration’s recommendation.

“I think this is a fantastic recommendation,” Pauloni said.

But other board members wanted to take more time to consider at what levels of infection each level kicks in.

For example, member Steve Brown said he might prefer to see the orange level kick in at 1.5 percent active cases instead of the greater than 1 percent level in the administration proposal.

After the new protocols were rejected, board members decided to have a special meeting to consider the protocols again, but did not set a date or time.

At the beginning of the meeting, 12 members of the public made comments. Eleven said they opposed any mandatory masking. One said they were ambivalent about masking, but would object to mandatory vaccination for COVID 19.

Also discussed at the meeting were results of recent surveys of district families and staff.

In the family survey, mandatory masking through the end of the semester was supported by 45 percent of the 611 respondents while 25.53 percent do not support mandatory masking regardless of transmission level.

In the staff survey, mandatory masking through the end of the semester was supported by 63.11 percent of the 103 respondents while 9.71 percent do not support mandatory masking regardless of transmission level.

The full family survey is available here and the full staff survey is available here.

As of Thursday, the board has eight active COVID-19 cases among students and staff.

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