Masks will be optional in Howell K-8 schools in new academic year


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HOWELL – Based on the current situation regarding the coronavirus, the use of a face mask will be optional for individuals in the Howell K-8 School District when the 2021-22 academic year begins in September.

During the July 7 meeting of the Board of Education, Superintendent of Schools Joseph Isola said he addressed the issue of face masks in a letter that was distributed that day and informed community members the school district will enter a “mask optional” period.

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“We will, based on the guidance … that came out, we will absolutely be launching our 2021-22 school year in a mask optional fashion … All the indications are good, that seems like that is pretty solid guidance from the state … so we wanted to get that information out to our community so we can begin to plan as we move forward getting closer to the start of the school year,” Isola said.

In other business, Isola said he has received emails from some members of the community regarding critical race theory.

The website states that “critical race theory (is an) intellectual movement and loosely organized framework of legal analysis based on the premise that race is not a natural, biologically grounded feature of physically distinct subgroups of human beings, but a socially constructed – culturally invented – category that is used to oppress and exploit people of color.

“Critical race theorists hold that the law and legal institutions in the United States are inherently racist insofar as they function to create and maintain social, economic and political inequalities between whites and non-whites, especially African Americans,” according to the website.

During a previous board meeting, some parents had expressed concern regarding the potential for critical race theory to be taught in Howell’s schools.

Addressing the issue on July 7, Isola said, “This is one of the things that is like a train going down the track and it is picking up steam. I am certainly a little baffled by it all. Critical race theory is not part of the Howell public schools’ philosophy or curriculum, nor is it anywhere on the (state) Department of Education website.”

The superintendent said critical race theory is being debated among higher education graduates.

“Certainly it is a topic of great debate at that level. There is no intention for this district to incorporate the principles of critical theory, as it relates to race in this case, within our curriculum.

“We continue to prepare and teach American history at the appropriate age and grade levels like we have been doing for years, and we have no plan to deviate from that,” Isola said.

He said that somewhere between the mass media and social media, critical race theory has been conflated with other topics.

“No one should be confused with critical race theory and issues of inclusivity, equity and diversity. Those are topics we are absolutely working on. That is pretty simple; it is complex work, but pretty simple.

“We want all of our students, regardless of religion, race, creed, disability, any other belief system or sexual orientation to feel welcomed and like a productive member of our school community, and it is important we embrace all of our students, no matter what their background is, and we will remain committed to that,” Isola said.

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