FULDA — As of Friday afternoon, 18 students from Fulda Area Schools had COVID-19 and about 50 kids were out of school under quarantine protocols. While the school put extra precautionary measures in place, its school board voted 4-3 Monday to keep face masks optional.

“I know it’s pretty emotional both ways,” said Superintendent Loy Woelber, noting that the school board had met twice in four days and that both pro-masking and anti-masking people had been very passionate about stating their opinions. “I think everybody’s trying to do what’s best for the kids and the community, and you try to listen to both sides and go from there. That’s the hard part.”

The school’s mitigation efforts have included spacing students farther apart from each other and quarantining students if any family members have COVID-19. The school is also serving breakfast in the classrooms and spacing students out during the noon hour, Woelber said.

“It was a quick turnaround and we got on top of it,” Woelber said.

Fulda has an advantage compared to larger schools, he said, because the school building was made to hold about twice as many students as the 370 who attend classes there. That enables Fulda to separate students with fewer difficulties.

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Another potential advantage could be the approaching MEA weekend, when students will get a little extra time at home.

“We want to take measures and take them seriously, but at the same time, our public like a lot of publics — are split on the masks,” Woelber said. “That’s kind of the hang-up. That’s where there was kind of angst. To do masks or not to do masks, that’s a tough one.”

If no more students get COVID-19, active cases will drop back to 10 on Monday.

Woelber praised School Nurse Rachel Isder for her work getting students tested for COVID-19 quickly.

“I think the main thing is to continue to be honest with yourself and your family, and if your kid doesn’t feel good — I know it stinks to take off work, but keep them home,” Woelber said.

He also reminded kids to wash their hands and use hand sanitizer, and encouraged people to get vaccinated.