GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Many students were able to take off their masks when returning to the classroom Monday after the public health orders requiring masks for K-6 students expired.
Kent, Kalamazoo and Ottawa counties issued the orders at the start of the school year. They were set to expire 60 days after the COVID-19 vaccine was made available for kids 5 to 11.
Now that the order is expired, it’s up to school districts to decide whether a mask mandate stays or goes.
Jenison Public Schools Superintendent Brandon Graham told News 8 his district’s reason for dropping the mandate.
“We wanted to give our families choice and what they wanted,” Graham said. “We believe that kids learn better probably without masks on and so we wanted to get each individual family that opportunity to make a decision for themselves.”
Graham said the district does encourage students to wear masks, adding its policy could change in the future.
“My 6-year-old still wanted to wear her mask today so I thought that was cute,” parent Melissa Chapman said. “Her other classmates were wearing them. But my 11-year-old chose not to at this point. She brought one with her, but I think it’s kind of what the other kids are doing that makes them feel comfortable or not.”
Another parent told News 8 he took comfort in the fact his child is vaccinated.
“I think my family is doing everything we can against the virus with being vaccinated so that’s pretty much all you can do in this day and age,” Phil Simon said.
Ottawa County Health Department Deputy Health Officer Marcia Mansaray said schools should continue to require masks for staff and students.
“It’s our strong recommendation, which is our way of saying, ‘You should do this,'” Mansaray said. “We’re telling you this is the best guidance and this is the gold standard for the safest learning environment.”
“We’re going to continue to closely monitor our cases in Jenison and move forward and set our protocols based on our case counts,” the Jenison superintendent said.