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Lancaster puts in mask mandate
Temporary order to allow committee to be formed, mask matrix instituted
Lancaster Flying Arrows

In a meeting that got contentious at times, including to a point when several members who spoke out were asked to leave the building, the Lancaster Community School Board voted to reinstate a mask mandate for all students and staff in school facilities.

The measure passed 6-2.

“We want our kids in school,” District Administrator Rob Wagner said to the crowd of around 90 people, a majority whom showed they didn’t like the idea of a mask mandate when they were asked by one member of the public to stand up to show what they thought.

The school had suffered a massive jump in the number of students and staff who had tested positive with COVID-19, as 24 were in isolation due to tests as of Wednesday.

There were only three last Thursday.

This led to 179 students or staff having to quarantine from the school due to close contact.

Wagner said that on the county level, the number of cases in schools varied. River Ridge was seeing a similar spike to Lancaster, as was Boscobel. 

Those two schools had mask matrixes in place, which were implemented to require masks indoors, due to the spike in cases.

Not every school was seeing spikes, as Cuba City, which also had a matrix in place, had low transmission rates.

Wagner, who said he talked with the public several times in the days leading up to the meeting, said he wanted to have a temporary mask mandate in order to create a ad hoc committee of staff and the public to create a matrix in order to set up “when we put mask on, and when we take masks off.”

The board approved the idea, 6-2, with Bill Haskins, Mike Steffel, Dean Noethe, Adam Arians, Tonya Moore and Gina Rollins approving, while Ned Huebner and Jerry Vesperman voting against. Nate Gallagher was absent.

One particular moment near the end was testy when resident Chasity Bennett stood up, and yelled at the board they were not following their own rules, not reading the policy at two separate meetings before approval.

The school district has a rule to read policies that go within the policy handbook two times before passing. This temporary reinstating of the mask order would not be considered that type of policy, and the would not blunder those rules to be read twice.

Board president Mike Steffel, who had been asking people to leave if making outbursts after the public comment period, told Bennett to leave, then stated he wanted to have law enforcement come and escort her out.

other members of the board urged to take the vote on the mask mandate and matrix instead, and the measure passed.

More info and video of this meeting will be uploaded in the fire, and a complete wrap-up will be Sept. 24 edition of the Herald Independent.