For the first quarter of the school year, MMSD is expanding its mask requirement in elementary (grades 4K - 5) and middle school (grades 6-8) communities to now include masking outdoors as well as indoors and on buses. The mask requirement includes staff, families, and visitors in elementary and middle school buildings, as well as after school childcare and activities at K-8 schools. Our schools will be working with families who need accommodations, to ensure all students' needs are met.
This decision comes after recent collaborative discussions on local COVID conditions, and to stay ahead of evolving risks associated with the Delta variant on unvaccinated children. Throughout the pandemic, the district has worked closely with our panel of local health advisors, whose expertise informs our practices, along with guidance from local, state, and national public health organizations. Through following the science and the guidance, MMSD continues to successfully stay ahead of the safety mitigation curve as the pandemic evolves.
Locally, positive Delta variant cases have spiked at an alarming pace, with positive Dane County cases growing exponentially from 10 new cases a day in July, to 93 a day in August. This local data is consistent with what is being experienced nationally, as school districts across the country have been forced to send large numbers of unvaccinated students home to quarantine only days after the start of their school year.
In Dane County, medical advisors working on the front lines of the pandemic described local Delta variant cases as very concerning due to its high transmissibility rate, level of severe disease, and incidence of breakthrough infections of those who are vaccinated. Therefore, our advisors unanimously recommended outdoor masking for elementary and middle school students, to ensure our goal of keeping students learning safely in-person and inside school buildings. We feel this extra layer of safety mitigation for students who are under 12 years old, and not eligible to be vaccinated, is best for our younger scholars.
Although we are asking elementary and middle schools to adhere to outdoor masking for the first quarter of the school year, we will continue monitoring local conditions. As our metrics change, our safety mitigation strategies will be adjusted accordingly.