Washtenaw County now considering mask mandate for schools

Posted at 10:56 PM, Aug 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-29 22:56:47-04

(WXYZ) — Over the last few days, Washtenaw County joined 73 other Michigan counties now considered by the CDC to be at a high level of community spread for COVID-19. Hours before the first day of school, some parents in Manchester are hoping the county will step in and require masks.

“I'm very frustrated and hurt that they’re choosing to not do what's safe for our kids,” said parent Larissa Brown.

Brown is a part of a large group of Manchester parents pushing for the school district to require masks. It’s the last remaining district in the county leaving the choice up to parents.

“It is simple, it should never have been politicized at all,” said parent Kim Blumenstein.

Many of these parents have kids too young to be vaccinated and worry about the rising case numbers in Washtenaw County.

“The fact that our school system is still not having a mask mandate is beyond frustrating,” Blumenstein said.

However, many parents are also hoping the district does not implement a policy.

"There are many of us that think masking our children is abuse,” said a parent at the Aug.16 Manchester School Board meeting.

Earlier this month, parents against a mandate also spoke in front of the school board and urged the district to stay its course. Some threatened to leave the district if masks were required, or said they would have their kids ignore the policy.

“If Manchester were going to mandate masks, I’d pull him," one father said of his son. "There’s no way I am going to put him through that.”

The Washtenaw County Health Department has been resistant to a county-wide mandate, saying they hoped schools would follow their guidance. Now they may now change course.

"What we have said locally in Washtenaw County is when we move to that high transmission level we will consider a mandate. So we will be looking at that closely,” said Susan Ringler-Cerniglia, an administrator with the Washtenaw County Health Department. "It's great to have it be a school-based policy, however, we also fully understand that many of our schools are in a very difficult position.”

With rising cases, the county is strongly encouraging masks at all indoor venues and urging residents to get vaccinated.

“We need to really use all of our tools to slow the rate of transmission and protect health as much as possible,” Ringler-Cerniglia said. "We would hope that our clear guidance as a local health department and the guidance of all health officials at every level would be enough, that we would have those requirements happen at 100%.”

With the first day of school now here, parents are anxiously waiting and wondering how another pandemic school year will look in Manchester.

“We're supposed to feel that our kids are safe when they go to school and they’re in good hands, but this is not safe for our kids or our staff,” Brown said.

The health department is still reviewing a mandate but say they expect to announce a decision on Monday, which is also the first day for school in Manchester.