Seniors have to graduate to escape state’s mask mandate

Schools remain one of the last public places under the thumb of Gov. Tim Walz and his confusing and contradictory mandatory mask edict. K through 12 schools still in session must comply with the governor’s emergency mask requirement for another two weeks. The students’ vacation from masks supposedly comes on June 13, though questions still cloud the rules for summer school.

East Grand Forks Schools Superintendent Mike Kolness attempted to explain the latest wrinkles in the state’s 33-page Safe Learning Plan at a recent school board meeting. The fact that Kolness and the board members felt free to ditch their own masks about 15 minutes into the meeting only added to the confusion for anyone trying to make sense of the latest leap in state policy.

They are recommending if things change with the executive orders, we look at rescinding that policy when the time is right. Just want to give you an update because we currently have that [mask mandate] in place. Face coverings are going to be required through the remainder of the school year, probably through some of summer school as well.

At the same time, Walz has rescinded the mask requirement for high school graduations and other events, effective May 28. The decision on whether or not to mask up at after-school events is up to the district. Kolness told school board members the East Grand Forks High Class of 2021 barely made the cut with ceremonies already set for what turned out to be the first day of mask-free graduations.

I was happy to see they opened things up a little bit so we could have more people there. And I’m looking forward to an in-person graduation. It’s been awhile.

One brief final return to normal was bittersweet for the graduating seniors, according to the Grand Forks Herald.

The district had initially planned to limit attendance at the ceremony due to COVID-19, but due to a change in CDC guidance at the 11th hour, they decided to open the doors to anyone who wished to attend. After a turbulent school year full of upended plans, the final last-minute change of the year was a welcome one to many.

“Last year, we didn’t have two months. This year, we only had three normal ones,” Sandbeck said in his speech. “This shows the power this class has. You made it here even if it meant being in a prison cell for a year.”

Yet some school districts refuse to give graduates and their families a break. Lakeville North High School puts it this way.

All Seniors will be provided a mask for commencement when boarding their bus. Guests are all required to wear face masks for the entire ceremony. All graduates will receive a commemorative face covering for the Commencement ceramony (sic).

After all they’ve been through with the pandemic, distance learning and lost opportunities, members of the Class of 2021 had to graduate to escape Minnesota’s last mask mandate.