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Will my child have to wear a mask when Michigan schools are back in session?

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Teachers and older students will be required to wear masks in the classroom if coronavirus cases remain high when Michigan school buildings reopen.

A back-to-school plan released by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday provides new details about who will have to wear a mask in school, and when they’ll have to wear one.

Mask requirements will be in effect only for schools that reopen while their regions are in Phase 4 of Whitmer’s MI Safe Start Plan, meaning their coronavirus cases and deaths are decreasing but the number of active cases is still high.

Almost all of the state is currently in Phase 4 with the exception of the Traverse City area of northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, which are in Phase 5 and would not be subject to mask requirements.

Under Whitmer’s plan, schools will reopen in the fall provided they are in a Phase 4 region. Schools in Phase 3 regions or below would continue with virtual learning from home.

Whitmer said that face coverings are the single best way to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but she acknowledged that the widespread use of masks in schools won’t be easy.

“This is a culture change,” she said during a press conference Tuesday.

So, will your child have to wear a mask if your school opens during Phase 4? It depends on their age.

  • All children in preschool through grade 12 will be required to wear masks while using school transportation and while in public areas such as hallways and cafeterias.
  • Students in grades 6-12 will have to wear masks during class. Those in grades K-5 don’t have to wear facial coverings if they remain with their classes throughout the school day and don’t come near students in another class.
  • Homemade or basic disposable masks are allowed.
  • Teachers will be required to wear masks all day except when eating.
  • Anyone — teacher or student — who can’t tolerate a mask for medical reasons doesn’t have to wear one, under Whitmer’s plan.

A survey of parents in Michigan, Illinois, and Ohio, found that most want classrooms to reopen in the fall with strict safety measures. Fewer parents favor requiring young children to wear masks, though nearly half want children above sixth grade to wear masks, and 55% want adults to wear masks.

Beyond face coverings, Whitmer’s plan contains several other safety requirements:

  • Prohibit indoor assemblies that bring together students from more than one classroom
  • Require schools to cooperate with local health departments around testing and screening students and staff for COVID-19
  • Frequently touched surfaces such as light switches must be cleaned every four hours. Student desks must be wiped down after every class period.
  • “Hands on” classrooms such as libraries must be disinfected after every class period.
  • Students must use hand sanitizer before boarding the school bus.

You can find more details on Whitmer’s plan here:

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