AAPS Masking Policy Faces Controversy Yet Again



As masking in Ann Arbor Public Schools continues, controversies about the issue have been thrust into the forefront. Photograph by Zia Nizami/Bellville News Democrat

Lance Caswell

Ann Arbor Public Schools’ universal mask policy was front and center as protestors disrupted a school board meeting at Forsythe Middle School on March 23rd. Approximately 15 protesters removed their masks, despite AAPS policy, to show their disdain for the continuation of required masking in all Ann Arbor Public Schools. Generally concerned parents and angered students made their sentiments known to the Board. The board moved quickly to call a recess and the third-party security working at the event moved to ask the protestors to leave. The protestors slowly filtered out until a small, but vocal, group of four or five remained. After refusing to leave, four police officers escorted the protesters cooperatively from the building. 

“We took off our masks to show that we are fed up,” said Skyline junior Soren Nielson. “When enough kids say they are fed up with something, they are more likely to listen.” However, Nielson’s strong feelings may not be representative of the Ann Arbor community as a whole.

“Two weeks prior, a majority of people speaking were pro-masks,” said Ann Arbor Public School Board President Rebecca Lazarus, highlighting the divide in the community. “We are watching this (Covid) very closely.”

 Lazarus and the Board face a tough task balancing the needs of both those who feel that masks are essential and those who feel they inhibit the learning process. Many students shared Nielson’s sentiments, although others over the course of this school year have disagreed. Nielson held a student lead walkout at Ann Arbor Skyline the following week on April 4, 2022. “We want to address the fact that our school is not following the science,” Nielsen said. Recently, Washtenaw County lifted its mask mandates in Washtenaw County, as well as The Michigan Health Services’ lifting of its respective requirements involving schools. 

Lazarus acknowledged that AAPS was not following state or federal guidelines, but stated that “School environments are very different from a standard office building. We’ve also gotten emails from teachers and parents who are concerned about health and safety.” Given the concern of teachers, students, and parents, about transmission of COVID in schools, the Board is hesitant to suspend the mask mandate. And although protests against masking certainly have occurred, they have failed to significantly sway public opinions and will likely not affect the policy of Ann Arbor Public Schools. Overall, the AAPS Board faces a difficult predicament in the coming months, balancing the concerns of all sides involved while protecting the health and safety of all students under their care.