Masks optional, MPS elementary students return to class

Milwaukee Public Schools students on the traditional calendar start school Tuesday, Sept. 6. This includes most MPS elementary school students. Masks will be optional for MPS students upon their return to class.

High school and middle school students resumed classes Aug. 15.

MPS mask policy change

Per CDC recommendations, masks will be optional for MPS staff and students through at least Sept. 8.

In July, the MPS board voted to switch to the CDC's COVID-19 Community Levels metric system.

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Instead of relying on transmission rate within the city of Milwaukee, the system focuses on three factors – new COVID-19 hospital admissions, the percent of staffed inpatient beds and the total new cases over the past seven days.

MPS will only require masks when the Community Level is in the "high" category. In other cases, masks will remain optional. 

The CDC updates its data every Thursday. Using this data, MPS officials say they will make determinations every Thursday, with mask requirements being revised for the following school day and subsequent week. The district mask status will be available on the MPS COVID-19 Updates webpage

Students, parents debate masks

No masks as school begins is welcome news for Zaniyah Weeks, who starts third grade on Tuesday at MPS' Sherman Multicultural School and said she's looking forward to seeing her friends and catching up after summer break.

"I like the masks, but I just got tired of it," said Weeks. "I didn't really breathe a lot, so I had to take it down a lot. Now, I can breathe because I don't have masks. I used to always be distracted by the masks. I used to be tying it, coloring it, tie-dyeing it."

Week's cousin, Amira Rosado, who is in second grade at St. Joseph's Academy, a Milwaukee Catholic school, still has to wear a mask in class.

"The coronavirus is still around a little bit," said Rosado. "It’s making everybody sick."

Rosado's mom, Rita Smoczynski, said she thinks the masks are good for kids in school.

"It's protecting them," said Smoczynski.

Smoczynski said she's happy for Weeks, her niece, who won't have to wear a mask but said her own kids still do.

"They wear a mask at school still, and they get tested every week," said Smoczynski.

She said the mask policy change in MPS is a good sign, though.

"I think (the pandemic) is coming to an end," said Smoczynski.


Most recent data on COVID-19 in MPS show 70 MPS staff and 70 MPS students testing positive for COVID-19. 

Testing for COVID-19 and vaccination clinics will be available at various school sites through Summit Labs for all students, staff and families, MPS administrators said. Cleaning and disinfecting all high-touch areas will occur in classrooms and buildings.

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