• Olivia Velasquez

The Community and COVID-19

For the past several weeks, some Olivet Community Schools (OCS) teachers and personnel have been wearing red for a cause called “Red for Ed.” The National Education Association’s website said, “#RedforEd is about funding for students and schools… Educators, parents, and communities are uniting for better school funding for our students.” The website also stated the mission is for educators to access, “a voice in shaping education policy. Salaries that allow educators to afford to stay in the profession they love, without having to work another job. Opportunities to learn and lead.”

A former Union Representative from OCS said, “tensions are high because teachers have literally reinvented the wheel since the beginning of the pandemic. We don’t feel valued. We’re losing staff left and right, mostly for better pay.”

Community Facebook pages have been actively voicing concern over the lack of contracts for educators at OCS for the 2021-2022 school year. The former representative said, “there seems to be no urgency to settle, despite [educators and personnel] being told we’re appreciated and to keep up the good work.”

Community members and OCS faculty and staff posted about attending board meetings in hopes of news on contract renewals. As of Friday, October 1, there have been no settled negotiations for a contract. OCS School Board Meeting minutes have not been uploaded to the Olivet Schools website since August 9.

On Friday, September 17, the Barry-Eaton District Health Department (BEDHD) issued an emergency order for mask requirements in educational institutions. This order from the BEDHD went into effect Wednesday, September 22 and required that all schools mandate the use of face masks.

The order mandated: 1. All Persons in Educational Settings, regardless of vaccination status, are required to consistently and properly wear a facial covering while inside any enclosed building or structure of an Educational Institution, vehicle of an Educational Institution, and/or off-site building or structure while participating in school-sponsored field trips or similar activities.

2. Educational Institutions shall ensure that all persons, regardless of vaccination status, consistently and properly wear a facial covering while inside any enclosed building or structure of the institution or vehicle of the institution, and/or off-site building or structure while participating in school-sponsored field trips or similar activities.”

Before the order was issued, OCS did not require the use of a face mask. On Monday, September 20, parents/guardians of OCS students received a letter from the superintendent, John Mertz, explaining the order and the school’s responsibility according to it. The letter stated, “As a result of this order, the district will be expecting all students to wear masks as required by the health department. If a student does not have a mask, then a mask will be provided for them. Students who are not wearing masks or not wearing a mask properly will be asked to put them on. If a student refuses to wear a mask, then the parent will be contacted and asked to pick up the student.”