District drops face mask requirement in schools

A group of elementary students outside in face masks give a thumbs up sign.

2-28-22 UPDATE – Per recent CDC guidance, face masks are no longer required on school buses.

Face masks will become optional for all students and staff inside Dearborn Public Schools starting on Wednesday, Feb. 23 as students return from mid-winter break.

Well-fitting masks are still required for anyone returning from quarantine less than 10 days after their exposure.  (See our quarantine guidelines.)  Those unable or unwilling to wear a mask need to complete the full 10 day quarantine at home.

Any student or staff who prefers to wear a face mask inside a school building or elsewhere on school grounds may continue to do so.

Throughout the pandemic, the District Crisis Team has met regularly to address and plan for how to implement various mitigation strategies, to monitor ever-changing guidelines and requirements and to carefully watch for potential COVID 19 spread in schools.

“We have worked closely with the Wayne County Health Department throughout this entire pandemic, following their guidance and recommendations. They have provided outstanding support and have truly been a partner the past two years,” said Superintendent Dr. Glenn Maleyko.

The Wayne County Health Department announced earlier this month that it planned to lift the mask requirement for schools at the end of February. Dr. Maleyko told the Board of Education on Monday, Feb. 14, that the district was going to use the time before the end of the month to evaluate conditions, but would likely follow the county’s lead and lift the mask requirement. 

School officials were surprised on Wednesday when the Wayne County Health Department abruptly lifted its mask requirements effective immediately. (See the Wayne County order here.)  The change at the county came after the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services earlier that same day said it was no longer recommending face masks indoors, including at schools. (See the MDHHS mask guidance here)

Dearborn Schools has required face masks inside school buildings since June of 2020 as a way to reduce the spread of COVID-19.  The virus hit Dearborn especially hard. The city of 110,000 people has reported nearly 30,000 COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic.  Some of the highest case rates of the pandemic were reported only a few weeks ago, although numbers have fallen precipitously since then.

While no longer requiring masks, the district will continue to provide masks for those who want them, to use other mitigation measures such as increased ventilation, to assist with providing COVID testing, to promote vaccination including hosting clinics, and of course, to encourage proper hand washing and other personal hygiene practices.  Dearborn Schools will also continue to closely monitor the number of COVID cases in schools and could temporarily bring back a mask requirement for a particular classroom, school, or the district as a last resort.

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

He added that everyone, including district administration, hopes the new relaxed masking recommendations from health officials truly signals the pandemic is finally waning, but he also noted a key line in the state’s new masking guidance:

“Recommendations regarding masking may change as conditions evolve.”