TONY NEWMAN, who has grandchildren in the school district, is shown offering his stance on masks and COVID-19 protocols to the Owosso School Board at Lincoln High School on Monday, Jan. 24. Newman was one of about 16 individuals to bring various opinions to the board during the regular meeting.

   Shown listening to Newman were (from left) school board treasurer Sara Keyes, OPS Superintendent Dr. Andrea Tuttle, board president Rick Mowen and board vice president Shelly Ochodnicky. Keyes and Ochodnicky voted against continuing with the masking and COVID-19 protocols, but the item passed in a 3-2 school board vote. The protocols will now continue until the February regular board meeting.

   Keyes and Ochodnicky both offered explanations supporting their views against continuing masking. Keyes explained her recent frustration connected to having a daughter in quarantine due to an in-home close contact situation.

   Board members Marlene Webster and Ty Krauss were not in attendance.

(Independent Photo/Karen Mead-Elford)


   The first Owosso Public Schools Board of Education meeting of the year was held Monday, Jan. 24 and the common topic of discussion was once again the current district mask requirement – now continued until the next regular board meeting in February following a 3-2 school board vote. The two dissenting votes were Shelly Ochodnicky and Sara Keyes.

   Only five school board members were in attendance for the Monday meeting, which was also an organizational meeting. The two members not in attendance were Marlene Webster and Ty Krauss. Board members also held organizational voting and following those votes all members will retain their previous board positions into 2022 including President Rick Mowen, Vice President Shelly Ochodnicky, Secretary Marlene Webster, Treasurer Sara Keyes with Trustees Olga Quick, Ty Krauss and Adam Easlick.

   The board first voted for the ongoing mask and COVID-19 rules in November. A second vote of 6-1 in December extended the requirements until the Monday evening meeting in the Lincoln High School gymnasium. The first extension was voted in primarily based on seeing decreased COVID-19 numbers as a continued effort to keep students in school.

   About sixteen individuals approached the board with varied opinions on masking and COVID-19 protocols. Nearly 90 people attended the school board meeting with the count fluctuating slightly as people came or went. Of that total, 57 percent of those in attendance, not including school board members or administrators, were masked during the meeting. The remaining people attending did not wear masks.

  Of those talking to the board, the majority of discussion – for or against – was on masks, stemming from a broad assortment of data, though little of the data presented was sited to any particular data source or sources. A few people that spoke either did not live in the district or had children in other school districts. While most of the speakers appeared emotionally involved on the mask subject, only a few spoke out with any overtly argumentative language.

   “Listen to five different news channels, you’ll get five different opinions,” said Tony Newman on masks. Newman has been attending school board meetings regularly on behalf of his young grandchildren. “Your personal feeling about COVID doesn’t matter. My personal feeling about COVID doesn’t matter. Personal feelings here don’t matter. What it is that is going to protect the kids, protect the staff and keep the kids in school to get a good education – that’s what we need to do and I think you’ve been doing a pretty good job.”

   Newman also pointed out that nobody in the audience was an expert on COVID, continuing with, “I don’t like wearing masks, but I’ll do it. My grandson is in 2nd-grade and he’ll wear a mask every day just to keep going to school. He even told me that. I asked him the other day.” Newman explained that his grandson had fallen behind in school last year and had to attend summer school. “He does not want to go to summer school. He likes school. He likes learning,” he argued for in-person learning.

   Following the meeting, OPS Superintendent Dr. Andrea Tuttle sent out an email to parents/guardians to once again clarify the current masking and COVID-19 rules. Tuttle stated that both students and staff are still required to wear masks in school, on the bus or as spectators at extracurricular and/or athletic events. The bus mandate is a federal protocol and not connected to the OPS restrictions.

   Tuttle stated that students and staff are not required to wear masks outdoors. She also explained that student athletes and students participating in extracurricular activities will be tested weekly for COVID-19, so these students aren’t required to mask during practices or competitions. When competing at other districts, Owosso will follow the mask mandates of that district.

  “While the mask mandate enacted by the Owosso Public Schools Board of Education is in effect, all quarantining due to school close contact will be highly recommended; however, all out-of-school exposures will still require students to quarantine,” shared Tuttle.

   COVID-19 testing for students and staff is available at the North Street campus in the Owosso Performing Arts Center from 7:15 to 8 a.m. on school days.

  Owosso is not the only nearby school district with a mask rule. New Lothrop Area Public Schools implemented a mask protocol mid-January that will continue through Friday, Feb. 4 following an increased COVID-19 positivity rate. 

Owosso Public Schools Masking and COVID-19 Rules to Continue was last modified: February 3rd, 2022 by Karen Elford