MANCHESTER (WXYZ) — When the superintendent of Manchester Community Schools laid out the return to school plan, some parents welcomed that masks were going to be optional, but some had hoped the district would lay down a mask mandate in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.
"I know there's gonna be parents on both sides of it, there always is," said Larissa Brown, mother of two children enrolled in Manchester public schools. "But I feel like when the CDC recommends it, at this point, recommendations are just as strong as orders, you need to follow it."
Superintendent Dr. Bradley Bezeau announced recently that wearing a mask in school will be optional for students and staff.
"I am concerned that kids that are wearing masks are going to get bullied and peer pressured and be forced to take their mask off," said Michelle Fowler. "My husband passed away two years ago. I am a single mother of five kids. I want to protect everybody in my household, you know, it's all about safety. People need to be safe."
Of particular concern for parents like Fowler and Brown is that the district will continue to allow students who have had close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 to still attend school.
And while the district will gather close contact information for the Washtenaw County Health Department, school staff will not be notifying parents and guardians of any child who may have been exposed.
Dr. Bezeau said they will be following recommendations from the health department.
Susan Ringler-Cerniglia, spokesperson for the Washtenaw County Health Department, said they are offering more flexible guidance for schools and recommending students, vaccinated or unvaccinated, who have been exposed to continue with in-person instruction with a mask on for a period of days. They will also be recommending testing for that person.
Staff from the health department will conduct any necessary contact tracing and notification.
Brown is concerned about delays that may be created by the information having to go through the health department instead of directly from the school to parents.
"I just feel like as a school, they send out emails for head lice, they send out emails for pinkeye in the classroom. So why would you not send it out for COVID-19?" Brown said.
"My son, a kindergartner, he will be doing the virtual platform because he can't be vaccinated," she said. "I'm not sending him back."
Anyone who is having symptoms of COVID-19 will not be allowed to attend class and will have to quarantine at home for the necessary period of time.