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STEVENSVILLE — Students at Lakeshore Public Schools will once again be required to wear face masks in school starting Tuesday.

On Monday night, Lakeshore school board trustees unanimously approved requiring masks to help keep students in school during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Board Vice President Kevin Bushu said the number of students having to quarantine jumped from 2.5 per day during the 17 days they were required to wear masks to 11 per day after the Berrien County Health Department’s mask mandate was rescinded almost two weeks ago.

“Every one case is putting 11 people out right now. To me, that’s huge,” he said.

Students and staff weren’t required to wear masks during the first week of school. During that week, he said the district averaged about 10 students quarantining per day.

Several trustees met with health department officials last week to look at the numbers.

Bushu said they were told the number of COVID-19 cases among children ages 0 to 19 jumped from 112 in August to 348 in September.

However, there are several exemptions to the mandate. People with a medical reason confirmed in writing by their doctor are exempt, along with neurodivergent students.

In addition, people don’t have to wear masks while:

  • Eating or drinking.
  • Actively engaged during competition of a school-sponsored athletic event.
  • Attending a school board meeting.

“Certainly difficult times, but for me, it comes back to how to keep the kids in school, how to keep it as normal as possible,” Bushu said.

Superintendent Greg Eding said parents will be notified Monday night of the new mask mandate.

Trustees said the decision was made due to changes BCHD officials made concerning quarantine.

In districts with universal masking in place, Eding said asymptomatic close contacts don’t have to be quarantined, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, as long as no more than one person in the classroom has tested positive for the virus.

Several parents spoke both for and against a mask mandate during the public comments section of the meeting, which took place before trustees voted to require masks.

One parent said he had a petition signed by 106 parents asking that the mask mandate be reinstated.

The health department removed its mask mandate on Sept. 29, shortly after the state budget was approved. BCHD officials did so because the budget included language that said any health department that has issued an emergency order in an attempt to combat COVID-19 – including enacting or enforcing an order requiring masks by anyone in a school setting – would be negatively impacted financially.

Berrien County has been in the high COVID-19 transmission category for eight consecutive weeks, as its seven-day average for new cases was at about 181 new cases per 100,000 residents (from Sept. 30 to Oct. 6), according to state data.

In that same timeframe, two people died from COVID-19 in Berrien County.

Contact: lwrege@TheHP.com, 932-0361, Twitter: @HPWrege

Staff Writer at The Herald-Palladium