While mask-wearing in indoor spaces remains largely a recommendation from state and federal health agencies, one such mandate will continue to shape next school year.
A order issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this year requires face coverings be worn on public conveyances — essentially any form of transportation not considered a private vehicle.
That relates to planes, trains, ride-shares, taxis, boats and buses — including school buses operated by public, private and charter schools, according to the CDC.
And while many districts in Monroe County have indicated masks are at each person’s discretion on campus and in classrooms, they’ve said the CDC’s order takes the decision out of their hands when it comes to their buses.
“There is no flexibility for mandates,” Airport Community Schools Supt. John Krimmel said. “We do not have control over mandates. At this point in time, anyone riding public transportation, school buses included, must wear a mask.”
The CDC’s order went into effect Jan. 29 as local, state and federal entities squabbled over mask mandates and COVID-19 policies, creating contrasting regulations that varied state to state and county to county.
According to order, drivers and passengers on school buses will be required to wear face coverings. Exemptions exist for those age 2 or younger; those with a disability that prevents mask wearing and for those whom wearing a mask would create a risk to workplace health, safety. or job duty.
For schools, the CDC and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services earlier this month issued guidance, urging school districts to require face coverings in indoor situations, even among the vaccinated.
Vaccinations are currently inaccessible to those younger than age 12. The agencies said in-person learning remains a top priority for the academic year. Their guidance is a recommendation, though, not a requirement.
Most schools in Monroe County will resume classes in the coming weeks. To date, Monroe Public Schools is the only district in the county to have indicated it will require masks for students on campus, though they are optional for secondary students so long as transmission levels remain low in the county per CDC standards.
In a districtwide email this week, Supt. Julie Everly announced MPS’ back-to-school information. In her letter, Everly indicated students riding MPS buses will be expected to adhere to the order.
“Masks also will be worn on buses, per CDC orders,” Everly wrote. “We are committed to following guidance that promotes educational program being sustained and uninterrupted.”
According to a statement from the district, students are encourage to keep an extra mask in their backpacks. Should they forget to bring one, bus drivers will have extras available.
Airport will have masks available for students who forget to bring them when boarding a bus, according to Krimmel.
The district will handle instances of noncompliance on a case-by-case basis.
“We will deal with each case of refusing to wear a mask individually and with consistency,” Krimmel said.
In a districtwide email and in a video message released early this month, Dundee Community Schools Supt. Edward Manuszak informed families the order applies to buses in the district.
“The CDC does have the jurisdiction over whether or not masks are required — and they are still requiring them on our school buses; this is considered public transportation,” Manuszak said. “We are requesting parents and families send their children to school with masks.”
Whether students continue to wear masks after they arrive at campus is their decision, he added.
Summerfield Schools Supt. Scott Salow said his district will follow the CDC mandate to have children wear masks while on the school bus.
“We will provide disposable face masks for students in the event that they forget to bring them,” said Salow.
Salow said any student that refuses to comply with the mandate will not be permitted on the bus.
Jefferson Schools Supt. Mike Petty said his district will also enforce the mandate.
“We have face masks not only available to students on buses, in the event they forgot to bring one, but we also have them in the buildings for staff and students to utilize as well,” said Petty.
If students fail to comply with this mandate Petty said as a first step, parents will be contacted.
Bedford Public Schools Supt. Dr. Carl Shultz said, “BPS will enforce this requirement for all employees and students as long as it remains current.”