Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Bessemer lifts mask mandate at elementary school


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Bessemer - For the first time in nearly two years students and staff at Washington Elementary School are free to be in the classroom and move about the building without a face covering. The Bessemer school board unanimously voted to terminate the face-mask mandate at the elementary school during its meeting on Wednesday.

Superintendent Dan Niemi said he discussed the issue with elementary principal Mark Switzer, and other staff members and they all felt it was time to make the change.

The school is now under the same policy as the high school, where masks are not required, but those that wish to wear one may do so. If the COVID numbers within the district start to rise again, Niemi said they could revert back to a mask requirement.

Students are still required to wear a mask on school buses as federal law requires masks on all public transportation.

"My wife follows the COVID numbers religiously and they are definitely on the down curve," said board president Jim Partenan.

Board member Tara Graham said the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is recommending that they go without the mask mandate. "Let's pray we're past this and we can go the rest of the year continuing at that level," she said.

"When we put the mask mandate in place (at the elementary school) in the fall, the big reason we did that is that there were not vaccinations at that age group and now there are," said board member Beth Steiger.

Switzer pointed out that they brought the health department in to vaccinate the kids at the school, if the parents wanted them to receive the vaccine.

The board voted unanimously to make the mask policy consistent at both buildings.

The board also accepted the resignation of athletic director Nick Heikkila, with regret, affective June, 30. He will continue to teach physical education at A.D. Johnson Junior-Senior High School.

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