Secondary School Students To Stay Virtual Until Jan. 18
January 11, 2022
On Monday, January 10, 2022 the TCAPS Board held a meeting to reevaluate the lifting of the mask mandate and to make a plan for how to work with such a prominent teacher shortage. The meeting itself was 3 hours and 51 minutes, overflowing with conflicting opinions. However, it ended with answers to the two main questions: Will students remain virtual, and will the mask mandate be reinstated?
Emma Herrington, a sophomore at West Senior High School argued towards keeping masks optional saying, “I feel like if we bring masks back you’re gonna have a lot of students that are no longer going to be happy with being at school anymore.” Herrington brought up the positives of not requiring masks,”I have been able to talk to my friends a lot more easily with not having to wear a mask… I can hear teachers better.” Whereas Central High School senior Emma Crissinger disagreed claiming, “taking away this rule [the mask mandate] is one of the dumbest things that could probably happen.” Crissinger also brought into focus that the teacher shortage isn’t only hurting students, but teachers as well, even getting emotional when remembering the occurrence, “When my teacher got Covid she was still expected to call us every day and teach us despite being sick.” From this, the board started discussing the mask mandate, this led to board member Ms. Humphreys saying, “We need to think differently about masks right now, no matter what your philosophy is about masking. The bottom line right now is that the lack of a mask mandate in TCAPS is keeping employees from feeling safe to enter the buildings and come in and teach our students.” When voting, all board members agreed that their top priority was to keep students in Face to Face learning, and if they needed to reinstate the mask mandate to keep teachers, then they would. This led to an agreement that the mask mandate would be reinstated when students returned to school. This led to the board deciding to shift to following the Leelanau Benzie Health Department, rather than the health department within TCAPS jurisdiction (the Grand Traverse County Health Department).
Later on in the meeting, superintendent Dr. VanWagoner brought up how unpredictable staffing is, “It’s like a snow day, you don’t know, I mean Cindy literally texted me at 5:30 am and says this what we’re at, what do you want to do?” He pointed out that he wanted students to return to classrooms as soon as possible, but they needed to be sure that staffing would be adequate enough for classes to actually occur. Although, all board members agreed that if they had to pick who would remain Face to Face, it would be elementary students. Due to the uncertainty of staffing, this resulted in the board keeping secondary schools virtual through the week (having them return Tuesday January 18, 2022), and keeping elementary schools Face to Face.