GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Classrooms have become the latest battleground over mask mandates, a year after COVID-19 first overwhelmed America.
Public health leaders are still promoting the critical need for face coverings in schools, but not everyone is on board with them this semester.
Masks have become the center of fiery debates. Some parents are even calling them political.
Superintendents like Matt Goebel are caught in the middle.
“The mask debate is a tough one,” said Goebel, who heads up the Hastings Area School System.
Goebel said he hears both sides from parents, and in accordance with the Barry County Health Department, is letting them take control.
“We are not mandating it at this time, so we are leaving it up to the individual family,” said Goebel.
The Eddie family is intentional with their decision to mask up.
“I want to do all I can to make sure my kids are safe,” said Anissa Eddie, a Kent County parent.
Anissa Eddie’s three boys are in Kent County schools, all of which are required to mandate masks for pre-school through sixth-grade students.
“I do worry about them getting sick and I’m aware that children do not have that many consequences, but you also know there are always the exceptions,” said Eddie. “You never know who that will be.”
Eddie’s oldest son Malachi doesn’t want to be that exception.
“I’m afraid that for the people who don’t wear a mask, they are risking the safety of others,” he said. “If they’re not wearing a mask, then whatever sickness they have, it can come out and affect other people.”
Other parents aren’t convinced.
“There are risks for everybody, but we decide what those risks are going to be,” said one parent at a Schoolcraft School Board meeting.
Many others want the freedom to choose if their kids wear a mask.
“We want to be able to have a say in how it is that we parent our children,” said Kari Zwagerman, Zeeland Public Schools parent.
As mask mandates continue to spark controversy in classrooms, Goebel calls for understanding and asks that all parents respect each other’s differences.
“If we don’t listen and we’re not hearing the other side of the perspective, then we are doing a disservice to the other side,” said Goebel.