DEARBORN HEIGHTS — At an Aug. 24 board meeting, the District 7 (D7) School Board of Education voted to require masks, just six days before school starts.
Interim Superintendent Dr. Mary Ann Cyr had previously told The Arab American News that the district would allow parents and staff to make their own decision regarding wearing masks while in school, but at the board meeting Cyr presented her case as to why that decision has changed.
In a document posted by the district following the meeting, Cyr said that the district is trying to keep the students safe.
“We are excited to start a new school year for our students and welcome them back to the classroom, where we know they ultimately learn best,” the post read. “We will return to the pre-pandemic schedule of in-person learning, Monday through Friday. The safety and well-being of the D7 students and staff have always been our first priority and it will continue to be as we enter the new school year.”
At the school board meeting, the board made the vote before even allowing parents to speak, which caused frustration among the parents who had gone to the meeting to have their voices heard.
It was then announced during public comment that the board’s policy is to not answer questions during the meeting, but that residents needed to fill in a comment form for the board to respond to via email or at the following meeting.
The safety and well-being of the D7 students and staff have always been our first priority and it will continue to be as we enter the new school year. — Interim Superintendent Mary Ann Cyr
One parent at the meeting said that his son, who has asthma, should not have to be stuck inside of 90 degree classrooms without air conditioning and be required to wear a mask.
“He has to get permission from doctors to take an inhaler for his asthma, but you guys can sit up here and make medical decisions for my son?” the parent said. “You’re not even allowed to put sunscreen on students for medical reasons, but you can make medical decisions saying that they should wear masks?”
Former Superintendent Jennifer Mast, who stepped down at the end of July due to irreconcilable differences with the board and will now be teaching fifth grade at Pardee, also spoke during public comment.
“It was truly cowardly to put the audience participation after the vote,” she said. “All these people came, you knew they were coming from the 152 comments on the Facebook page. The only thing that confuses me about the decision and the recommendation is that there are no mandates. Last year, we didn’t have a choice but to make kids sit in school with masks on and the heat and all of that. This year, we do have a choice because nobody wants to make that call. Politicians aren’t making that call, the governor’s not making that call, the state isn’t making that call, none of them are making the call. They’re dumping it on superintendents and letting superintendents be pressured by two sides of the coin. If they thought it was dangerous, and they thought there were lives at risk, they would make the call. They made it for 18 months prior and they’re not making it now.”
In the document shared on the district’s Facebook page, the district said that there are key strategies to keeping the schools safe, including mask usage, physical distancing, ventilation, handwashing and respiratory etiquette, hydration, daily screening, staying home when sick and getting tested, contact tracing in combination with quarantine, cleaning and disinfecting, and an updated COVID dashboard.
While indoor sports will require spectators, coaches and players to wear masks in the school, gym, stands and on the sidelines, players on the court may remove their masks for the time of play and outdoor activities will not require masks at this time.
“Please understand that our safe return to school plan is flexible and contingent upon COVID-19 trends and the rates in our community,” the document read. “We will continue to work with our local health department and the MDHHS to determine the best safety protocols for our district and, more specifically, this plan will be revisited at the end of each month.”
The district also said the factors that will be considered when consulting with the Wayne County Health Department to determine if any changes to the plan are needed will include the level of community transmission of COVID-19, COVID-19 vaccination rates in the community and among students and staff, COVID-19 outbreaks or increasing trends in the school or surrounding community and ages of children served in the school and risk associated with school, extracurricular and social activities.
The district plans to review the topic on a month-to-month basis.
Cyr did not respond to requests for an interview.