Impatience ran high at the Antigo School Board meeting Tuesday, as members discussed COVID numbers and related issues.

Superintendent Julie Sprague shared data that reflected as of Sept. 28, 2020, the district had six positive coronavirus cases and as of Sept. 28, 2021, the district had 105 positive cases. In 2020, there were 205 staff members and students quarantined, and in 2021, there has been 975 staff members and students quarantined. The positivity rate last year was 2.92%, while this year, it is 10.76%.

“It’s tough for me to share, this but we currently have two students hospitalized,” Sprague said.

Jen Matuszewski, an infection prevention nurse, asked the board to re-consider requiring masks as the burden of illness is high right now, and she believes mask requirements should be set in place for a period of time until the numbers go down.

Resident Angie Schreiber said residents were mad at the board and the district for their inconsistencies.

“There are so many problems with current procedures and so much inconsistency and you wonder why the parents are upset,” she said. “They are more than upset … because this parent gets a different letter from what another parent gets, and the parents that are here and are watching, we want answers.”

New student representatives Meredith Meidl and Torrence Spencer were introduced, and a recap of homecoming activities was given.

Moving on to another COVID-19 topic, the board considered the district’s participation in the COVID-related research program with ABC Science Collaborative, based at Duke University.

The collaborative research provides data and information about COVID in schools as some board members have asked for more data based on the topic at several recent meetings.

Dr. Patrick McKenna, medical adviser for the district, reassured board members that collaborative research has been around for more than 50 years to help educate and expand the knowledge of many things by tracking a variety of data. He believes it’s reasonable for the school to participate in the collaborative.

Schreiber spoke again and asked board members to raise their hands if they were familiar with the ABC Collaborative, and Andy Merry, board president, informed her that it is the members’ choice to raise their hand or not, that they don’t have to just because she asked.

“So if you didn’t raise your hand, then we’re going to assume you don’t know about it, but yet you’re going to vote on it? That makes a lot of sense,” Schreiber said. “After further investigation, they promote mask wearing and vaccine promotion, and if you wear a mask or not, you’re going to be quarantined unless you’re vaccinated, then it’s Gods will.”

She said these reports are biased and asked, as a mother of a student, the board votes no to this.

Sprague said this collaborative is a free service, and the more data the district can have, the better, even if only some of the data is used.

Some board members beleived the data would be used against the district or possibly used to put certain requirements in place.

Board member Dr. Noel Deep said the data collected is used to address health issues and collect information to analyze. The data cannot be used against any particular district, and it doesn’t hurt to find out what the district’s obligations would be to participate.

The board voted 5-3 to approve participation in the program, with Mary Neufeld, John Schroeder, Merry, Deep and Wayne Gagnon in favor, and Dave Bardo, Danny Pyeatte and Jill Mattek-Nelson opposed.

Also approved 5-3 was a plan for the district to a host site for COVID vaccination clinics.

For many years, the school has provided vaccination clinics, generally for the flu, but just like previous clinics, the district cannot discriminate who utilizes the clinic. The clinic would be maintained by the Langlade County Health Department and would be open to the public.

In other business, the board approved giving public access to items on the agenda. The information will be released to the public the same day as board members, which is the Friday prior to the meeting date.

A total of $11,820.25 in donations was accepted: $680 from Enerpac for Fill-a-Backpack Fill-a Need; $1,000 from Phyllis Mattek Memorial for Noboken School Forest; $140.25 from Zoetis for Antigo FFA; and $10,000 from Steffen Memorial Home for a 1908 Steinway 6-foot grand piano for the high school music department.

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