Dowagiac schools make masks optional for students, staff

DOWAGIAC — Dowagiac Union Schools have announced new COVID-19 protocols for the 2021-2022 school year

In a statement posted the district’s website, Superintendent Jonathan Whan announced plans the district has to mitigate the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic starting on the first day of school Aug. 30. In the announcement, Whan said, like many schools across the state, masks will be optional for both students and staff, regardless of vaccination status, come fall.

“Dowagiac Union Schools has been reviewing and assessing our plans from last year as we worked to develop our path for the 2021-22 school year,” Whan said. “As we continue to work with the Health Department, local school districts, and state agencies in this interesting and challenging time, our goal is to develop a plan built on what we learned last year to continue a safe and welcoming environment for students and staff and the community. As we have all learned over the past year and a half, we must be flexible. Dowagiac Union Schools will continue to work with multiple agencies to gather and assess guidelines and data to make the best decision possible. A phrase we will be using is flexible mitigation: the ability to increase or decrease measures from the base plan to maintain a safe learning/working environment. Significant increases may occur if mandated by governmental agencies.”

In addition to a statement on masks, Whan said all school building would operate in-person five days per week, COVID-19 vaccines would not be required for students or staff, and students and staff will not be tested for COVID-19 unless required by the health department, the state of the Michigan High School Athletic Association.

Whan said the district will continue hygiene practices put in place last year and DUS will enforce the 100.4-degree fever threshold and other significant symptoms for staying or being sent home for both students and staff for all illnesses. Students who test positive for COVID-19, and their unvaccinated household contacts, will be required to stay home for 10 days or until they are symptom free.

“All schools are required to report communicable diseases to the health department,” Whan said. “Therefore, we will report positive COVID cases and conduct contact tracing. We will use the 3-foot rule for possible exposure. Families of students that may be considered exposed will be informed, but DUS will not quarantine students or staff due to potential exposure. Quarantine restrictions would come from the health department. We will also not be posting letters to the district website unless mandated to do so.”

The district plans to comply with all legal requirements set by the health department, and Whan said changes will be made in the district justifies the need.

“This week our local health department, VBCDHD, shared the newest guidelines, which are not mandates, for the community and schools to consider,” Whan said. “They encourage those who can receive a vaccination to do so. This is because the vast majority of the newest cases are those who are still unvaccinated. The guidelines also recommend that those who cannot receive a vaccination due to their age wear masks. We are looking forward to and planning on a great year that incorporates pre-covid practices and lessons learned from the past 18 months. We hope for a sense of normalcy to return to the district, each building, and every classroom.”

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