The Wayland Board of Education Monday night voted not to follow a recommendation from the Allegan County Health Department to institute universal face mask requirements for all students for the next 14 days.
The local school system is currently complying with such mask rules for all students in grades K-6 because they cannot yet receive vaccines to handle the Coronavirus pandemic.
However, the board voted 6-1 not to follow this latest recommendation and once again was critical of the health department for lack of timeliness. Trustee Jason Shane cast the lone vote in following the guidelines.
“I’m a tad frustrated with the health department for not doing this (making such recommendations) in a timely manner,” said Board Secretary Janel Hott, noting the ACHD letter was made available only last Friday. “It’s too delayed, in my opinion.”
Board Vice President Pete Zondervan added, “I’m disappointed with our health department. If they feel this (temporary universal masking) is important, they should mandate it.”
Superintendent Dr. Christina Hinds told the board health department officials “are not planning to issue orders on hybrid and remote learning,” but believe in order to keep the kids in the classroom such mask measures may be necessary.
Board members apparently weren’t buying it.
Shane, in his dissent, maintained, “Our biggest concern last year was keeping the kids in the classroom… If we don’t get this (virus) under control we’ll be going against everything we wanted to do. I think we need to be proactive here.”
Indeed, Wayland students in the 2021-22 academic year spent far too little time in the classroom, opting instead for the safer hybrid (combination of on-line and in-person) learning plan.
Ironically, a parent in the audience, Erin Stepek, suggested the board move to masking up all students, not just the K-6 kids, because of recent reports of increases of Covid cases in schools all over West Michigan.
The superintendent reported there were 18 students who have tested positive for Covid since school started sessions in late August.
Hinds lamented the end of a positive summer school period that featured “no cases, no masks… it was lovely.”
In other business Monday night, the board:
- Was told of troubling students’ behavior at Friday night’s football game, including foul language, rough housing and one student parading around the stadium promoting a failed presidential candidate from 2020.
Hinds said, “We are addressing this and we are aware of it.”
- Watched and listened to building principals who introduced the new teachers in their buildings.
- Was told by Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations Patricia Velie the sixth year of the summer lunch and breakfast program went very well, with thousands of meals being served.
- Heard from parent Jenny Sass Ward who expressed support meeting a need for a more involved and visible support of the Fine Arts in the district. “We have a board committee for tech, curriculum, security, athletics, etc…but not for fine arts,” she said.
COVER PHOTO: Student representatives for the Wayland Board of Education this academic year will be junior Summer Morrison (left) and senior Haylee Jasinski, who is serving her second year.