Parents have mixed feelings about COVID-19 protocols at K-M Schools

(ABC 6 NEWS) – With cases of COVID-19 on the rise across the region, school districts have had to make some adjustments.

One of those districts is Kasson-Mantorville Public Schools, which recently sent out a letter to parents Tuesday announcing updated protocols.

Some of the current protocols are masks are not required, and the school requires three feet of social distancing in school buildings during school hours.

The school will notify parents if their child has a close contact and they define a close contact as being within three feet for 15 consecutive minutes of someone who tests positive for COVID-19.

If a child does have a close contact, the school recommends quarantining, but the decision is not required and is up to the parents.

The district is also offering free at-home COVID-19 tests.

As for those new protocols that were recently sent to parents, the district said it will now contact parents if there are three or more positive cases in their child’s elementary classroom.

A similar strategy is being worked out for middle and high school.

If a parent is concerned there may be a positive case in their child’s PK-through-4 classroom, they can call the school and ask.

In Dodge County, community transmission is at a high rate, according to the CDC.

Some parents feel as cases rise, there should be more protocols in place, but others feel it should stay up to the parents.

"I just felt like to the superintendent that it is not a big deal," said Kasson-Mantorville parent, Devon Stauffer.

Stauffer has two kids in the K-M school district.

She said she felt safe sending her kids to school last year, but this year it’s a different story.

"Their policy is you have a voice and a choice, I was very nervous about that because I know that statistics show that masking work," said Stauffer.

Stauffer is also a nurse and she said she sends her kids to school double-masked because of high case numbers and mitigation strategies she feels are not enough.

One of those is contact tracing, parents can choose to keep their kids in school if they are not showing symptoms.

"My daughter we got a phone call on Friday that she had a close contact and I could have kept her in school which like baffled me," said Stauffer.

Some parents said they have found out about COVID cases in their children’s classrooms through social media.

"They could have stronger mitigation strategies and they don’t and I don’t know why. I would love to know why they choosing not to enforce more mitigation strategies," said Stauffer.

But not all parents feel this way.

Tiffany Swanson is a parent of four at the Kasson-Mantorville schools and is a substitute teacher at the district.

"We couldn’t be more proud of the protocol that the KM district put in place," said Swanson.

And Peter Foley also has four kids in the district.

"I was appreciative of them not actually having the mandate and having it as parental choice," said Foley.

Swanson said last year she put two of her kids into homeschool because of how things went during distance learning.

"They would come home on their home days and they would just sit and stare at a screen all day for school which was really difficult as a parent to see," said Swanson.

And Foley said he agrees with the school’s decisions because there are more vaccines available now and he said we know more about the impacts of online schooling.

"To say oh you are not keeping my child safe because you are not doing these covid protocols but then to say then if we were we need to switch to online learning does that make it safe for everyone," said Foley.

But Stauffer feels the school could do more.

"We are not asking for them to go to distance learning we just want it to be safe to send our kids to school," said Stauffer.

ABC 6 News reached out to Superintendent Mark Matuska about these protocols.

He would not go on camera for an interview but did provide the statement below:

We have offered parents a great deal of choices throughout the school year and that hasn’t changed. We encourage parents to do what they feel is best for their children’s safety, learning, and mental health. And…we have parents who are in much different places in their lives due to the stresses of the pandemic. We have parents who can’t take another day off of work. We have parents that are continuously worried about the health of their children. We have parents worry that their children are falling behind academically. We have parents worried about visiting older relatives who may be compromised over the holidays. We have parents worried about the effects of the pandemic and being out of school on their children’s mental health, which is becoming a major concern of our staff. We also have parents that have mental health issues of their own that are stemming from the stresses of the pandemic. And there are people who are extremely passionate on both ends of the issue.

These are tough decisions we are making and it isn’t cut and dried as many would like it to be. Bottom line…as a parent, do what you think is best for your kids. Districts have determined their protocols, are continually changing them, and trying to do what is best for their community. We all try to make what we believe are the best decisions for kids every day, and I fully understand that not everyone agrees with all of the decisions our district makes.

The district has an upcoming vaccination clinic with Dodge County Public Health on November 30th and the second dose on December 21st.