Spring break and safety are factors in East Lansing schools, decision about making mandates. For now, masks will be required inside schools and on buses, the school board decided on Feb. 28.
As Michigan enters the recovery phase of COVID-19, the Michigan Department of Health and Services now requires that masks be worn inside high-risk congregate settings, such as health-care facilities and jails. School districts are left to decide whether to require the use of masks while on school property.
With new CDC guidelines, masks are recommended to be worn indoors only in high-risk counties. Currently, Ingham County is a medium-risk level, but Clinton County to the north is at high risk.
School Board President Kate Powers said the changing requirements pushed families to ask whether masks should still be mandated.
East Lansing schools Trustee Terah Chambers said parents want their kids to be able to see smiles and the verbal cues that come from communicating without masks. Chambers also said parents want their kids to see progress towards normalcy. “If it’s safe to do that, then let’s provide that choice,” Chambers said.
“This is one of those things where it’s hard because I like to support people’s individual choice, like I would love to let people choose,” said Chambers. “But this isn’t one of those kinds of situations … it’s a collective responsibility kind of thing.”
Many kids have vulnerabilities that would put them at risk. Teachers have to be considered, as well. If masks were to be removed it could put teachers and staff at risk.
Secretary Monica Fink said, “We can’t force them to be in these buildings and create what would be an unbearable position for them.”
Spring break is coming up for the district, starting March 28. Many families will be vacationing during the break, and Trustee Elizabeth Lyons said many trips may be canceled if we take off masks now.
“I don’t want to take masks away and bring them back,” said Chambers.
Superintendent Dori Leyko said a recent survey of two-thirds of East Lansing Education Association members showed 69% still support having masks universally required at least through about two weeks after spring break.
The board plans to reevaluate this decision after spring break at the meeting on April 11.