December 23, 2021

HPS to continue mask mandate to start 2022.

HPS is committed to keeping our schools open, staff in classrooms, and students in seats.

The following statement was read by Interim Superintendent Nick Cassidy during the Board of Education Meeting on December 20, 2021. 

The mask mandate will be lifted by the Health Department as of Jan. 2nd, which will mark 60 days after the vaccine was available for all school-aged kids. However, school guidance for contact tracing with the Health Department’s quarantine guidelines have not changed.   

As of right now, with all students masking, most students identified as close contacts who do not show symptoms can still come to school.  If we rescind our current mask policy at school, we would have had dozens of students and several staff members out on quarantine in November and December.  

I am committed to keeping our doors open, staff in classrooms, and students in seats.  

Factors to consider when making a decision to continue masking:

  1. With current contact tracing and quarantine guidelines, too many students and staff would be out of school.  This could impact our ability to staff classrooms and/or reach the attendance threshold. 
  2. Our current cases are considerably higher than they  were at this time last year with our transmission rates more than double what threshold is for “high transmission”.  We are at 22% positivity rates.  Above 10% is considered “High”. 
  3. Health Department recommendations are still that masks be worn. 
  4. Enforcing masking of spectators at sporting events is nearly impossible, especially when surrounding districts have different guidelines.   These are optional events, whereas school is required.   We will be investing in signage urging spectators to wear masks, to social distance, and to follow covid protocols.  

Schools still have legal authority and responsibility to protect students from Covid 19 and the Michigan Occupational Health and Safety Act creates a duty for employees to provide ‘a place of employment that is free from recognized hazards that are causing, or likely to cause, death or serious physical harm to the employee.”   See the article from The Network for Public Health Law.  

My recommendation to the board is to continue with our current mask policy, with an adjustment to after school activities and making masking strongly encouraged for spectators at sporting events.  Athletes will follow the same Covid protocols that have been in place.  However, I feel it is in our best interest to keep reviewing this policy and looking at metrics that will give us a path to  removing the masks from our kids and staff, and do so in manner that  gradually removes safeguards as numbers decrease.

No vote of the trustees was necessary to make Cassidy’s recommendations to continue the mask mandate the district policy for the start of the second half of the school year.