Wausau school board can still do right by workers, parents and students

Our schools are now back in business, as is the Delta Variant of COVID. Hospitalizations and deaths are on the rise, reaching unprecedented numbers for children and individuals, and not just those suffering from chronic diseases!

Amidst this backdrop, the Wausau school board still has the opportunity to provide the success of a full year of in-person instruction, but instead has chosen to take the riskiest and potentially most deadly route by making masks optional, not promoting full vaccination or regular testing, and other half-measures of mitigation and staff support.

The school board has been given the opportunity to prove to the staff and community that they put the needs fundamental to the continuous operation of the in-person experience as a priority over political allegiances and vanity. Yet they succumb to popularity contests and politics of unlimited individual freedom trumping the health of the community while discounting the concerns of parents and teachers about the unmet needs of struggling students.

Perhaps having one’s name associated with an upscale high school sporting complex satisfies the need of board members for feel-good recognition, but the school board is not being tasked with rebranding the Wausau School District. Their own surveys attest to the priority of improving educational performance.

Having the Wausau school district associated with the sickness and death of students, parents, teachers and staff will have families fleeing schools in unprecedented numbers.

The school board should consider the impact of legal action on peoples’ perception of the board after being given so many opportunities to do the right thing.

School board members: Divert your attention from the mirror and make the hard calls that give our kids the best chance to complete a full year in-person classes while minimizing COVID’s impact on the life and livelihoods of working families and our entire community!

You still have the opportunity to be graciously recognized for doing everything you could to complete the academic year while improving the achievement gap and prioritizing the expressed needs of parents and teachers, all during a COVID surge! Restore the mask mandate, all proven mitigation measures, and provide adequate PPE. Establish vaccination centers through the schools. Provide hazard pay to all staff. Assure Health Department representation at every meeting when experiencing a COVID surge (according to the level of risk determined by the Marathon County Health department). This would mean now. Follow the CDC recommendations for quarantine and contact tracing. Expand the district- wide effort to meet the needs of marginalized and struggling students to address the achievement gap.

Bruce Grau is a retired nurse practitioner and volunteers his time for Northcentral Wisconsin Poor People’s Campaign.