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TCAPS extends mask policy for K-12 until year's end

TCAPS student Lucy Jones told the school board she was in favor of extending the mask policy.
Taylor Wizner
Interlochen Public Radio
TCAPS student Lucy Jones told the school board she was in favor of extending the mask policy.

When students at Traverse City Area Public Schools return from the holiday break in January, they won’t have to wear masks.

The school board voted 5-1 to phase out the universal mask policy at the end of the calendar year, at their meeting Monday night.

Board members said they wanted to give more children time to get vaccinated, as they expect the Food and Drug Administration will approve a COVID vaccine for children ages five to 11 soon.

In coming to its decision, the board also discussed data from Munson Medical Center, the county’s positivity rate, as well as school attendance numbers and school-associated COVID cases.

Board President Scott Newman-Bale said he wanted to be sure the policy didn’t strain the hospital’s ability to manage COVID patients. He advocated for the high school to drop the mask requirement earlier, since they’ve had more time to get vaccinated, but the idea did not get support from the rest of the board.

Sue Kelly was the only trustee to vote no on extending the policy, as she was against a mandate.

Andrew Foglesong, a parent to two children who go to Willow Hill Elementary School, was also opposed.

“I think it is monstrous and (absurd) to put masks on little kids,” he said.

A TCAPS student, Lucy Jones, said she wanted to continue wearing a mask as a precaution to protect her unvaccinated siblings.

“By wearing a mask at school I’m keeping my sisters and brothers safe,” she said. “I don’t mind wearing a mask as long as I’m able to be in school, so thank you.”

The board says it may mask up again in the new year if school attendance falls below 88%, if the vaccine isn’t approved for young children soon, or if COVID trends for the area worsen.

Taylor Wizner covers heath, tourism and other news for Interlochen Public Radio.