Dearborn Public Schools to drop mask mandate next week

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Dearborn Public Schools is dropping its face mask requirement for students and staff next week, the district announced Friday.

Starting Wednesday, when mid-winter break ends, masks are optional except on buses, where a requirement remains through federal orders, officials said in a statement.

However, the coverings remain required for anyone returning from quarantine less than 10 days after their exposure to COVID-19. Those unable or unwilling to wear a mask after exposure must complete a full 10-day quarantine at home, it notes. 

Students wear masks at Oakman School.

Meanwhile, the district is slated to continue to provide masks for those who request them as well as maintain mitigation measures such as increased ventilation and "could temporarily bring back a mask requirement for a particular classroom, school, or the district as a last resort" if virus cases rise.

“We understand that any decision regarding COVID will come with mixed opinions," Superintendent Dr. Glenn Maleyko said. "We hope everyone will be patient and understanding with each other and with our staff as we adjust to this new change."

Maleyko told the Dearborn Board of Education on Monday that the district, which has required face masks inside its 37 schools since June 2020 and reported more than 20,000 students attending this year, would likely follow the county’s lead and lift the mask requirement.

Dearborn has reported nearly 30,000 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic started, but the average daily case number has fallen significantly since topping out around 472 in mid-January, according to county health department data provided to the district. The figure was 26.6 on Thursday.

This week, Wayne County's health officer lifted the emergency mask order for K-12 schools there, sooner than had been expected after the department said last week it expected to do so at the end of the month.

State health officials also dropped public health advisories regarding mask usage in most indoor public settings and K-12 schools, citing a drop drop in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations as the state enters what the department called a "post-surge, recovery phase."

Statewide, counts continue to decline from early January, when the state hit a new high mark with more than 20,000 confirmed cases per day.

All of Michigan's regions are experiencing declines for case rates and hospitalizations, the state health department reported Tuesday.

Through Thursday, at nearly 66% of state residents, or about 6.57 million people, had received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, according to the state website.

All of Michigan's countywide K-12 school mask mandates were slated to stop by the end of February, but school districts maintain the discretion of imposing their own masking requirements.

Health departments in Washtenaw and Oakland counties have said they would lift all COVID-19 orders related to K-12 schools starting Feb. 28.

The Grosse Pointe Public School System sent an email to families on Monday saying it would shift from requiring masks to recommending them for all students, staff and visitors in school buildings.

The Detroit Public Schools Community District will continue to require masks for students and staff, Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said Thursday.

The Pontiac School District announced Tuesday that it would continue to require masks despite the Oakland County order ending.