Saline Area Schools to Allow Students to Participate in Protest Against Vaccine and Mask Mandates

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Some students at Saline Middle School and Saline High School might walk out of class Friday morning as part of a nationwide protest against mask and vaccine mandates.

Saline Area Schools Superintendent Steve Laatsch said the district planned to allow the students to walk out around 10 a.m., remove their masks outside the building, and then replace their masks before re-entering the schools.

"We felt it was better to allow the protest, minimize the disruption to school, and not penalize the students for participating," Laatsch said.

Many parents sympathetic to the protesters' cause share information in a Facebook group called Saline Return to Learn. A graphic shared by parent Jennifer Scarpati indicates the main focus is more on the county's mask mandate than it is the vaccine mandate.

Nearly all Washtenaw County students are required to wear masks in schools due to a health department order. The order, in many ways, mirrors many of the rules and benchmarks the district had in its own plan for masking and quarantining.

The Saline Post has reached out to a student involved in organizing the protest.

Laatsch reiterated the district's support for the county order.

"Saline Area Schools supports the health department's mask mandate," Laatsch said.

With the increased transmission and despite the mask rules, the district continues to deal with cases of COVID-19. One of the district's big challenges is testing exposed students to determine if they've been infected and need to be quarantined.

"We want to keep more kids in school, rather than send them home. But the testing is hard on the system. We're low on staff," Laatsch said.

Earlier this week, in Manchester, maskless students flouted the county health order and entered the building. They were taken to the library and did not return to class.

Video of the altercation has been shared on multiple social media platforms.

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More people have been questioning the forced use of masks in schools since 113,000 fans piled into the University of Michigan football stadium without comment from the health department.

Last week, The Saline Post asked a health department official why the mask mandate only applied to people in K-12 school buildings.

"Primarily because of the importance of preserving in-person learning for students and doing so as safely as possible. Schools also have a significant proportion of their population not yet eligible for vaccination. Others are more vulnerable with vaccination," spokesperson Susan Ringler-Cerniglia said.

Viral spread in Washtenaw County appeared to be slowing until this week. There were 166 cases at the University of Michigan, alone.

Saline's 48176 zip code had new 43 cases in the last two weeks. There were 117 cases in Ypsilanti's 48197 zip code and 154 in Ann Arbor's 48104 zip code.

The slight rise in hospitalizations observed in August has also tailed off for the moment.

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