GEORGETOWN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — As the mask debate intensifies ahead of the new school year, the superintendent of Jenison Public Schools is urging parents to direct their efforts outside the district.

Jenison Public Schools Superintendent Brandon Graham says the preschool through sixth grade mask requirement is a directive coming from the Ottawa County Health Department.

“So, there is not a debate on if we follow those orders or not and we will be following those orders starting tomorrow,” Graham said.

After the county issued the order last week, a vocal group of parents began pushing back against the mandate, saying it should be up to them to decide whether their child wears a mask in school.

Those parents are continuing this push ahead of Tuesday, which marks the first day of the school year for all Jenison students.

“Lots of petitions, meetings at the school boards, just showing up and making our voices heard and advocating for our children,” Jennifer Henry said.

While respecting the opinion of every parent, Graham is urging people to take their concerns to officials outside the district, saying the last thing anyone wants is for students to get caught in the middle of this debate.

“Demonstrations here (at school) aren’t going to change the order,” he said. “I think parents really need to direct their efforts toward the Ottawa County Health Department and elected officials to see that change.”

Another parent pushing back against the mandate is urging the superintendent to accept religious exemptions on behalf of students.

Graham said that’s not an option at this time.

“We will continue to try to get clarification from the health department, but our understanding is that religious waivers are not going to be granted at this time,” Graham said.

On the other side of the debate, parents who were relieved by the announcement of a mask mandate are encouraging officials to stay strong in backing the decision.

“I think we are worried about our leaders potentially caving to the pressure,” Sarah Huet said.