We’re John and Heidi Wise, parents of a CWASD middle-schooler.
This is the story of why and how we decided to stand up to unmask our son and his classmates.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
- We accepted masking our son at school as a short-term, distasteful concession to get him back to in-person learning.
- Although it became increasingly obvious that COVID had run its natural course and masks did nothing to change the outcomes, Wisconsin politicians and health officials continued to cling to masks even as other states were abandoning their mandates with great success. We decided it was time to fight to get the mask off our son now.
- We presented a plan to the CWASD administration and board of education (BOE), which they accepted with seriousness and respect.
- Superintendent Johnson has reviewed our materials and is compiling a literature review, which he will share with the BOE and county health department.
- We expanded the original unmasking plan introduction into an Open Letter that people can sign to show their support for this effort. We invite you to stand with us!
The Long Version
Like many parents, we have been angered and frustrated by the draconian response to COVID, which has precipitated more child suffering around the world than any other cause we know of.
So when the CWASD administration announced they were opening school in September, 2020, with full-day, in-person classes, we were relieved and grateful to have local school leaders who were in tune with reality and the needs of children and families. They had worked hard to develop a plan that would give our son and his classmates as much normality as possible, while still taking precautions to help fearful students, parents, and staff gain confidence in the safety of being back at school.
We were irritated by the universal masking requirement, but figured the district’s hands were tied by our governor’s mask mandate. We grudgingly accepted this distasteful concession with the expectation that elected and health officials would soon come to their senses as the virus naturally receded due to seasonality, or after the election was over and we no longer had to pretend it was the end of the world to unseat a president.
The good news is our district administration continued to display solid leadership and common sense by never once closing our schools, and by reinstating more group activities and events as the year went on. (Our son was thrilled when band returned in second trimester!) We took this as a positive sign that district administrators were serious about getting back to normal, and crossed our fingers that masks would soon be gone.
The bad news is our governor had different priorities, with his endless extensions of emergency orders and mask mandates. Despite rapidly declining cases, hospitalizations, and deaths; now-common knowledge that COVID has an infection fatality rate similar to flu and follows the same seasonality curve; decades of quality research showing that mask efficacy is inconclusive at best; and numerous real-world examples across the globe showing that masks made no difference in outcomes, Governor Evers and his health officials continue to insist that universal masking is essential to “keep people safe.”
But hope sprang forth again when Texas defiantly kicked their useless mask mandate to the curb, and a handful of other states soon followed. We realized the time had come for us to stand up and fight for the same in Wisconsin, particularly for our children.
Our goal was to encourage action with solutions and support, rather than merely demand that somebody else do something. Serendipitously, we discovered a thoughtful, detailed plan for unmasking children that Emily Burns, a mom in Massachusetts, wrote as part of a 4-part series for The Smile Project. It was the perfect tool to initiate dialogue with the CWASD administration and BOE.
We shared Emily’s original plan with a small group of parents. They liked it and encouraged us to present it to the administration and board of education at their March 22, 2021 meeting. We tweaked Emily’s plan to target it to our community, then took it to the meeting.
At the meeting, we learned that the district planned to continue universal masking through the end of the school year, even if the governor were to let the mask mandate expire on April 4 (thankfully, the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck it down before he could extend it again!) Undaunted, we submitted our unmasking action plan for consideration. We didn’t have time to discuss it, but left enough paper copies for everyone. On behalf of the administration and board, Superintendent Johnson accepted the plan with thanks, seriousness, and respect, and committed to follow up with us.
We have since exchanged several emails, and are pleased to report that Superintendent Johnson has taken action, including reviewing the resources we supplied, and compiling them with other resources into a literature review with summaries and annotations. He will submit his review to the BOE and county health department for their review and feedback.
Simultaneously, we wanted to engage more parent and community support to help fuel momentum for this effort – especially now that the statewide mask mandate is gone! So we expanded the unmasking action plan introduction into an Open Letter that people can sign and share with others.
We invite you to stand with us in fighting for our children, supporting our schools, and bringing normal back to our community!