Judge holds emergency hearing in Libertas school COVID-19 dispute

Ottawa County

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Attorneys representing Libertas Christian School went before a federal judge in Kalamazoo Wednesday for an emergency hearing to challenge a cease and desist order from the Ottawa County Health Department.

The department issued the order last week resulting in the closure of the school.

Ottawa County health officials say the school was not following mask and social distancing guidelines to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Two teachers tested positive for the virus and the health department says they were contagious for a period of time while they were instructing students.

The school says the teachers did not have close contact with the students and disputes the county’s timetable.

The president of the school board, Matthew Williams, and Headmaster Robert Davis took the stand.

The school says masks interfere with practicing its religious beliefs, which Libertas incorporates into the curriculum.

Williams said the school had gone virtual in the spring and that the board had received several complaints about quality of education without having in person-instruction.

Davis says the district surveyed parents about whether they wanted their children wearing masks and unanimously the parents said they did not.

He told the court the school would likely have permanently closed because parents would have taken their children to other districts. Davis stated that other Christian schools in the area are not complying with the mask and social distancing orders.

An attorney for the school wants the judge to order the school to reopen.

The health department says the school refused to cooperate with contact tracing of a second-grade classroom.

The school attorney told News 8 last week that the school has no obligation to provide membership information to the religious organization.

The hearing will resume Thursday afternoon with the health department calling its witnesses.

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