Thousands of families across Northeast Wisconsin continue to flock to their local school districts.
"I just want the parents to be able to parent and the educators to stick to educating," Manitowoc parent Jason Johnston said.
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Prior to a Tuesday night board meeting, parents and students gathered outside of the Manitowoc district headquarters to protest a mask mandate for students, staff and visitors.
Johnston has a young student slated to join the district next fall.
Dozens of Manitowoc families protested MPSD's mask mandate ahead of Tuesday night's school board meeting.— Ben Bokun (@ben_bokun) September 15, 2021
The decision to require face coverings for students, staff and visitors was made by the district superintendent. pic.twitter.com/QNMOhKaRDT
"If the numbers were actually concrete -- at least more concrete -- and there wasn't so much speculation and other politicization, I wouldn't be here because it wouldn't make sense," Johnston said.
Manitowoc's superintendent made the decision to require face coverings independently without a board vote just days before the start of the school year.
"There's not just the risk of contracting the corona infection," Johnston said. "There's psychological effects of covering your face."
But former MPSD student Sonia Vasquez doesn't see an issue.
"Even the minor inconvenience that's possibly saving another person's life, I don't understand why somebody would not want to," she said.
Around this time last year, the school district case burden rate was 191 per 100,000 people over two weeks. The latest numbers in Manitowoc have bounced to 469 per 100,000 people.
"Not only am I here to support the mandate that MPSD has put in place, but also to support the leaders within the Manitowoc Public School District," Vasquez said.
After a heated board meeting, the mandate remains in place... for now.
"Hopefully in the end with masking, social distancing, vaccinations, we will end up not being in a pandemic anymore," Vasquez said.