KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Kalamazoo Public Schools announced Friday it will require masks at the start the 2021-2022 school year.

In a Friday letter, Superintendent Rita Raichoudhuri said many parents expected a mask mandate when they signed their children up for in-person classes for next school year.

The fall will be the first time the district returns to face-to-face learning since March 2020.

Its mask mandate will be in effect at least through the first trimester before being reevaluated in November. At that time, the district will take into consideration vaccine availability for each of the grade levels and make adjustments if needed.  

“Not requiring masks on KPS properties would lead to the spread of the virus, which will create an unsafe environment for our students and staff — especially for our younger students who cannot yet receive the vaccine and for those in our community who may have compromised immune systems. Subsequent outbreaks would cause serious disruptions in learning during a crucial year for our students” Riachoudhuri wrote in the letter.  

This announcement comes one day after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced all mask and capacity mandates from the state would end July 1.

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is now available to children as young as 12. The company is in clinical trials now for children as young as 6. It hopes to receive emergency use authorization for the 6 to 11 age group before the end of the year.