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About two weeks before classes start at Grosse Pointe Public Schools, Beth Bright Wood rushes to make decisions about what to do next for her 7-year-old son with severe asthma and her 5-year-old daughter.
The school district does not currently require masks for the next school year, and Bright Wood plans, for now, to deregister his daughter from kindergarten and have his son learn at home.
âMy husband and I have to choose between the health of our children or their education, and that’s not fair,â she told Bridge Michigan.
For months across Michigan and much of the country, people opposed to mask warrants have dominated the news with loud protests at school board meetings as districts grapple with decisions on masks. facial.
Bright Wood is among the parents pushing for school mask mandates who organize rallies, issue press releases and dot school leaders to ensure their voices are also heard amid a cacophony of anti-protest protests. masks.
A pro-mask rally was held outside the Macomb County Health Department on Wednesday, a few miles and hours from an anti-mask protest at the Oakland County Health Division.
âSeeing parents ‘unmask our kids’ being heard at school board meetings – I think a lot of us (thought) now that we need to start talking too,â said Emily Mellits, mother of a first child. and third year at Romeo Community Schools in Macomb County.
âThey think they’re the majority and quite frankly they might not be,â Mellits said.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer has issued guidelines strongly recommending the use of face masks in Michigan schools, but there is no statewide mandate in place at this time. This means that the decision to require masks or make them optional this coming school year rests with individual school districts or county health officials.
Parents who criticize mask warrants have raised a number of concerns, ranging from the argument that parents should have the freedom to decide whether their children wear face coverings, to masks interfering with the educational and social development of children. students. Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey questioned the science behind masks’ effectiveness in protecting against COVID in schools and cited studies indicating the virus is not more harmful to children get the flu.
But with the delta variant continuing to fuel an increase in COVID-19 cases, and children under 12 still not eligible for vaccines, pro-mask parents say they’re tired of giving way. to anti-mask families.
Parents push for mask warrants
Pro-mask parent groups have formed in Kent, Wayne, Macomb and Oakland counties, with the groups collaborating on a recent joint press release urging school mask mandates. Macomb County Parents for Safe in Person School, a group of over 1,000 members, uses petitions, emails and phone calls to get the attention of school boards and superintendents.
These efforts have sometimes gone unnoticed. The same safety concerns that make these parents want school mask mandates have made some reluctant to mix it up with anti-mask parents at school board meetings.
âWe don’t even really have a safe space for board meetings where we’re protected,â Mellits said. “I think this is an issue that prevents some pro-mask families from attending board meetings because what happens at board meetings is exactly what we’re trying to prevent – a room full of unmasked people. “
She added, âMany of us think we can be just as effective email and phone to the board and the superintendent, (and) that those words have as much power as a public session of. two minutes. comment at a board meeting.
Mellits told Bridge Michigan that the Macomb County Parents’ Group rally outside the county health department was meant to encourage officials to issue a county-wide school mask warrant, as were health officials. from Oakland County did so on Tuesday.
âWe want to continue to let the health department and the Macomb Intermediate School District know that we’re here (and) we want that mandate in place,â Mellits said. âIt’s about protecting children, but it’s also about protecting our community. “
Sierra Cameron, CEO of the Michigan Chapter American Academy of Pediatrics, said she was relieved to learn that her children’s school district, Lansing Public School District, is implementing a mask mandate for the next school year. The Michigan Chapter American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that schools implement universal masking.
âI think it’s incredibly important that the kids mask themselves, that we socially distance ourselves (and) that we implement all of these safety measures that have been recommended,â Cameron said. “As the kids go back to school, without the mask (and) without these measures in place, I’m sure we’ll see cases of COVID in schools.”
For Nicole Kessler of Oakland County Parents for Safe In Person School, the group has achieved exactly what they hoped for.
The Oakland County Health Division announced Tuesday that everyone in elementary, middle and high schools as well as vocational schools in the county will be required to wear face covers regardless of COVID vaccination status. 19. This edict will remain in effect until 14 days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determines that the spread of COVID in the county is “moderate” or less. Currently, the CDC considers the spread of COVID in Oakland County to be “high.”
âI don’t even have words to tell you how relieved I am, especially for parents who were in districts that did not impose masks,â Kessler said. âThere were people who finally got a good night’s sleep last night and I’m grateful for that. “
The group now plans to partner with groups of Wayne and Macomb who are pushing for mask warrants in their counties, as well as continuing to push for a statewide mandate.
About 46% of the state’s students as of Tuesday attend a school district or are in a county that has a mask mandate in place.
âWe’ve just started,â said Mellits, of the Macomb Group. “There is definitely a momentum here (and) there is definitely a desire to do what is best for our children and our communities.”
âNo one likes to wear a mask, but if that means we extend or completely avoid going into quarantine or shutting down completely, then let’s do it. We can no longer afford to lose more learning.