PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — About 40 people attended a dance for Platteville High School seniors where at least some attendees did not appear to wear masks or physically distance themselves.

The event — which was not affiliated with the Platteville School District — was held at The BARn, a venue owned by School Board Member Curt Timlin.

Timlin said he donated use of the space after the school’s prom was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“These kids have had more opportunities taken away from them already than I’ve had taken away from me in my lifetime,” he said.

Some other board members, however, said they think the event undermines efforts to open their schools in person during the pandemic.

“I just feel like these behaviors undermine that and are probably encouraging outbreaks that will cause us to pivot to virtual sooner than if they didn’t happen,” School Board Member Vikki Peterson said.

A video clip from the summer formal was posted online over the weekend by The Platteville Journal. The 32-second clip shows at least 20 people gathered in close proximity while music plays. Many of the students are not wearing masks in the video and in photos posted to The BARn’s Facebook page.

Timlin said he agreed to donate the space after being approached by parents to hold an event, and students organized the dance. The event was held Saturday, Aug. 29, in an outdoor tent with the sides open, Timlin said. It was attended by 41 people.

Timlin said he made masks available, as well as hand sanitizer and soap but that it is not his job to “police people” or to enforce the statewide mask mandate in an outdoor facility.

“If you’d like to tell your people to call the police or call the county deputies or the health department and have them enforce it, that would be the proper enforcement,” Timlin said.

He also said people supporting the event did so out of concern for students’ mental health and well-being.

“Mental health is going to be the scourge of COVID-19 to this age group before the physical (effects of the virus),” he said.

Platteville Superintendent Jim Boebel said the district was not associated with the event.

Platteville students are returning to school this week, with students in grades seven through 12 attending in person two days a week and younger students attending four days per week. They are required to wear face coverings.

Board Member Katrina Hecimovic said she reached out to the district after hearing rumors about the dance and was assured the district was not involved. She said a board member’s involvement “probably sends pretty mixed messages to the public about the district’s priorities.”

Jeff Kindrai, director of the Grant County (Wis.) Health Department, said whether a violation of the state mask mandate occurred is a “gray area” because the order requires the wearing of face coverings indoors or in an “enclosed space.” Business owners also are not required to confront patrons who are not wearing masks, Kindrai said.

Regardless, it is still a good idea to wear masks in situations where people are around others and where social distancing is challenging, he said.

“We do want to protect people’s health, particularly with school starting,” he said.

Kindrai said he had not received any formal complaints about the dance.

Recommended for you