By David Fleet
Goodrich-On Monday night, the district superintendent along with the school board reiterated an order from the Genesee County Health Department to require all students in kindergarten through sixth grade as well as teachers and staff to wear masks in schools and other indoor educational settings following an announcement in Aug. 12.
“The Genesee County Health Department was the first county in the state to have this order,” said Wayne Wright, district superintendent, during the Aug. 23 school board meeting. “Since then several other health departments have followed suit and made similar orders. I’m also seeing many school districts who had said they would provide choice regarding the wearing of masks are now requiring the wearing of masks.”
“I have received opinions from two law firms that say we are bound to follow the order from the health department. Failure to follow the order from the health department leaves board members, the district, and the employees of the district open to both criminal and civil lawsuits.”
The county-wide public health order issue from Genesee County Health Department Medical Health Officer Dr. Pamela Hackert took effect last week and will remain until two months after a COVID-19 vaccine is granted emergency use authorization for children ages 5-11 and coronavirus transmission is considered low or moderate by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In July, the district announced that masking will be a choice when students and teachers head back this fall in a letter to parents on July 26 when school starts up Aug. 30.
“In regards to students in grades 7-12, we will continue to follow the earlier directive of the GCHD and recommend that students, staff, and visitors wear face masks inside of the building, regardless of vaccination status,” said Wright in a letter to the community. We know this will be frustrating for many of our families who want the right to make the choice for their children. We do not reserve the authority to defy a lawful order from the GCHD. Our district is obligated to follow the order and will comply. Our parents and guardians who have objections should direct their concerns to the GCHD.”
Several individuals expressed concerns regarding the masking, including a grandmother of district children spoke in support of the mask mandate.
“Public health mandates are not a new thing,” she said during the meeting. “They are not about communism or the question of parent rights, they are not a question of party or politics, they are not even a new function of government. They are a tried and true legitimate and legal public health function of the American government, period. For all these reasons and despite the inconvenience of wearing a mask and the difficulty of enforcing the mandate, I urge you to embrace this mask mandate for the sake of the children and to prevent the spread of COVID to parents, grandparents and other vulnerable people.”
Several also opposed the GCHD mask mandate during the school board meeting.
“I’m a mother of three (children) and I’d like you to unmask our children,” she said. “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different results. We’ve all masked, we’ve all been socially distanced, we’ve missed holidays, we’ve done quarantine, we’ve cancelled vacations, and nothing has changed. Clearly the science is not there, we don’t have numbers (of COVID cases), kids are not getting sick. We’ve given up our freedom, our liberty and our children are suffering. I can ask our teacher friends—it’s not conducive for teaching or learning.”
“The real pandemic is the media,” she said. “Turn off your news, think for yourselves. Parents I’m urging you to take back your liberties, take back your freedoms. We have a choice, it’s our children. No one loves our children more than we do.”