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PHM Acts to Quash “Mask-Free Friday”

Free Our Smiles Facebook Post

MISHAWAKA, Ind. — School officials warned Penn-Harris-Madison families that Facebook promotions advertising a mask-free Friday were only rumors and not sanctioned by the school. 

The post circulating on Facebook read: “On Friday, February 11th we are celebrating seeing SMILES again with a Mask FREE FRIDAY! All PHM students, staff and teachers are invited to join in and have a mask free day. Let’s fill our buildings with smiles and normalcy again. Our kids have done everything asked of them for two years. They have earned a day of smiles and a chance to see normal again.” 

Another Facebook post simply stated: “Free Our Smiles PHM Friday 2.11.22.”  

It is yet to be seen whether students will choose to flaunt the rules anyway on Friday, as parents and their children are growing more and more frustrated with almost two years of Covid restrictions and mandates. This week, several Democratic governors joined red states in announcing the end of mask mandates. 

“As mask mandates begin to be rolled back around the country, PHM continues to follow guidance and prevention strategies that have yet been proven to stop transmission,” said Bryan Jones, a Penn parent. “Students want to join together and express their opposition to these mandates, but it seemed PHM quickly went to work to squash the expression of an alternate viewpoint from the group of students that was quickly growing in number.”

Penn High School Principal Sean Galiher said in a letter to families that students would still need to comply with state health orders that required universal masking, social distancing and other Covid protocols. He noted: “As cases drop locally, statewide, and nationally, I hope that things will slowly start to return to a state of normalcy. We have had zero positive student cases the last two days.”

Cases in St. Joseph County dropped by 55 percent since last week; the current seven-day average is 114 cases. St. Joseph County has approximately 273,000 people.

Galiher did not spell out specific punishments for mask noncompliance in his letter, but said, “Good behavior and compliance with school/district rules are an expectation for all students. All student behavioral expectations are outlined in our Student Handbook.”

Despite the mask rules, Galiher described PHM schools as “full of active and engaging learning, excitement and laughter.”

A similar letter was sent out to families at Discovery Middle School.

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