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Area schools will not require masks

By Judy Reed

To mask or not to mask? That has been a question that has dominated news headlines over the last year, and especially in the last few weeks leading up to the start of school. There have been protests, petitions, court cases, and more. And whichever side you fall on, there’s been a lot of anger and frustration fueling the debate.

The Kent County Health Department and Mid-Michigan Health Department has decided to let schools make their own decision on this issue, and at this writing, Cedar Springs Public Schools, Creative Technologies Academy, and Tri County Community Schools, will not require masks (other than on buses). But they will be doing other things to help keep kids safe from COVID-19.

“I am not issuing a public health order mandating masks in the schools at this time,” explained Adam London, health administrator with the Kent County Health Department. “This decision is due to the reality that not all options have been exhausted to prevent the danger before us. The schools and the parents have even greater power than the health department to protect the children and the community in this instance. They are also better positioned to enforce such action. 

“Under Michigan’s Revised School Code, public schools have a responsibility to provide for the safety and welfare of pupils while at school or a school sponsored activity. The authority of schools was affirmed by the Michigan Board of Education (last) week when they approved a resolution that supports allowing local school districts to make scientifically informed decisions about whether to mandate COVID-19 masks for all students, teachers and visitors. To be clear, the Kent County Health Department has reviewed the science and we agree with conclusions of the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics, our local hospitals, our medical advisory workgroup, and the overwhelming body of peer-reviewed literature: the use of facial coverings in the school environment has been effective at significantly limiting COVID transmission.”

According to Cedar Springs Public Schools Superintendent Scott Smith, they reviewed the recommendations by the CDC, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, and Kent County Health Department, and decided to do the following:

  • Not require masks when in school buildings but encourage all students and staff to use one
  • Request students and staff stay home when sick or feeling ill
  • Continue social distancing of at least three feet within the classrooms
  • Promote hand washing and good hygiene
  • Require masks to be worn on school buses due to the January 29 CDC Order.

Creative Technologies Academy is taking a similar route. “In the absence of any public health orders, CTA parents/legal guardians will have the choice when making the decision for their children regarding face coverings, COVID-19 testing, COVID-19 vaccines,” said Autumn Mattson, Superintendent/School Leader of CTA. “However, if COVID-19 cases are escalating in our community and the numbers become alarming, we may have to issue a mask mandate within our district.”

  • When possible, they will maintain a minimum of six feet between people.
  • They will require frequent hand washing and sanitizing.
  • They will continue daily, weekly, and monthly cleaning procedures of classrooms and buildings. 

Tri County Area Schools is following a similar plan. Supt. Allen Cumings sent out a letter outlining what they are doing, based on recommendations from the CDC, MDHHS, and MMHD:

  • They will physically distance to the extent possible (most classes 3 ft)
  • Increasing air flow and adding improved air filters to ventilation systems
  • Cleaning and disinfecting according to CDC guidelines
  • Students will need to wear masks on buses, due to the CDC order.
  • Students will be asked to wash their hands during the day, and follow respiratory hygiene and etiquette guidelines.

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