A school in northern Michigan has been ordered to impose masks. 100 students left.



But after the Benzie-Leelanau health district imposed a mask requirement for all schools in those two counties at the end of August, just a week before the schools reopened, those same 30 students withdrew from Benzie Central, according to the superintendent. Amiee Erfourth. Another 70 students who live in the district have since left the school system due to the mask’s mandate, many going to schools where masks are still optional.


In the space of a few weeks, the district with about 1,300 students lost about 100 children from families who did not want their children to wear masks in classrooms, Erfourth said in Bridge Michigan.

“Some families who were very sensitive (not to wear face masks) chose other schools,” said Erfourth. “Some have chosen homeschooling.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has refused to adopt statewide face mask policies to protect against COVID this school year, leaving that decision to local health officials and school districts. This resulted in a mishmash of local mask policies this fall, leading some passionate families to seek out schools that match their views.

It is not yet clear how widespread shopping in schools for favorable mask policies is in Michigan. The state’s official counting day – when district enrollment counts determine the amount of state funding – is October 6. The data for this count day will not be compiled until later this fall.

The ability of families to move their children is aided by Michigan’s School of Choice policy, which allows students to move easily and relatively frequently between districts, which many do for a variety of reasons.

But conversations this month with local school leaders indicate that many districts are seeing at least a few families registering or withdrawing from classes as they flee or seek mask warrants.

The impact of the school exchange goes far beyond pandemic politics. Changing schools can have a negative impact on children’s education and can destabilize school budgets. An example: The loss of 100 students at Benzie Central due to a mask warrant means the loss of more than $ 800,000 in state funding per student for that school year alone, a significant loss for a district with a budget of $ 14 million.

At least 257 of the state’s 533 traditional school districts and about 791,000 students – representing 63% of all Michigan public school students – now have mask mandates. Some of these districts have imposed face coverings themselves, while others follow mask warrants issued by local health authorities.

You can find your school’s mask policy here.

Schools that do not have face mask requirements for students are “mask optional.” While school and health officials in “optional” districts generally encourage students to wear masks in school, most do not, with 10 percent or less of students wearing masks in school. some districts.

This can lead to wide gaps in masking between sometimes neighboring school districts, which may encourage families who are passionate about the issue to choose schools based on masking policies.

Community schools in Webberville, Ingham County, are subject to a mask warrant imposed by the local health department. But the district borders Livingston County, where schools are optional for the mask. Webberville Superintendent Andrew Smith told Bridge Michigan his district has lost students from families who object to their children wearing masks in schools.

Smith did not suggest a specific number of students who have left, but cited a current situation in which a family with three children at Webberville schools is requesting a transfer from the school of choice to a district without a mask.

“If our district approved this transfer and release of funding, it would cost our district approximately $ 8,200 per student per year,” Smith said. “If these students did not return to our district during their Kindergarten to Grade 12 education, it would cost our district approximately $ 262,000 as a result of these lost income. Please keep in mind that this is only for 3 students.

If the district does not approve the transfer, “It puts us in conflict with the parents and students with whom we have otherwise had a very positive relationship for years,” said Smith.

“I understand the mandates and the laws, but… it’s just frustrating,” Smith said. “It’s a divisive issue, so you have people on both sides. “

While Webberville and Benzie Central have lost students due to their mask tenure, Howell Public Schools have lost some students due to the lack of mask requirement. Katie Deck is a parent who until recently had a first grade student at Howell with optional mask. Although she and her daughter loved their teacher, Deck recently pulled her daughter out of Howell and enrolled her in Whitmore Lake Public Schools, which have a mask mandate.

One of the main reasons for the change was the belief that her daughter would be safer if all of her classmates wore masks, Deck said.

“I know of at least six families who have moved their children ‘from Howell to schools with mask warrants,” Deck said. “Some went to Dexter (community schools), others to Whitmore Lake. a private school here (in Livingston County) that requires masks. ”

Lawyers, mandates and money

In August, the Benzie Central School Board initially voted 5-2 to ignore the local health department’s mask mandate.

“We have had a lot of feedback from the community for wanting the choice,” said Superintendent Erfourth of Bridge Michigan.

However, counsel for the council said the district was likely to lose in court if it rejected the health order; the health department could shut down school buildings in the district if the mask mandate was not enforced. A week after their initial vote, the board backed down and voted 4-3 to follow the mask requirement.

It was then that the students began to withdraw from the neighborhood, Erfourth said. Benzie Central had previously assumed there would be a slight drop in enrollment when he set his annual budget, so leaving students after tenure will not cripple the district, although an elementary teaching post has been deleted.

Trying to curb student departures, Benzie Central this week rescinded her mandate to mask a building, Betsie Valley Elementary, which is located just across the Benzie County line in Manistee County, which did no mask warrant. Parents of elementary school students who wish to remain in the neighborhood without their children wearing masks can be transferred to Betsie Valley.

“We are opening registrations,” said Erfourth. “We certainly had a family to change there, and another family with two children moved from there (to a school under a mask mandate).

“The board is very committed to giving families a choice,” Erfourth said.



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