Allendale Township board of trustees grapple with Ottawa County School’s mask mandate


Courtesy / Allendale Township

Sara Collins, Staff Writer

Allendale Township’s board of trustees held a township meeting late Monday night to highlight and discuss the township’s current focuses. Topics like community concerns and truth in taxation: budget updates and general funds were discussed. The board also highlighted how they are prioritizing the community concerns over the current mask mandate in the Allendale public school district. 

Several concerns from the community have risen as schools in the township are now in session and masks for in-person classroom learning are currently required. Allendale township itself doesn’t have a mask mandate, but the township’s public schools have a mask mandate put in place by the Ottawa County Health Department, according to Adam Elenbaas, supervisor of Allendale Township. 

District 8 Allendale County Commissioner, Greg Dejong, gives hope to the community by ensuring that opinions regarding current mask mandates are being taken into consideration.

“We are doing whatever we can to look into this. Obviously, we have layers upon layers of opinions on this now, but we just can’t override,” Dejong said. “I have taken this assignment very seriously. I have communicated with as many Allendale residents as I could.”

According to an August 2021 article published by WZZM13, Allendale school’s superintendent sent a letter to state leaders to override mask protocols required in the district’s schools. The intent was for masks to become optional, giving students and parents the choice. 

Several residents have stepped forward and voiced concern as they do not agree with the mask mandate, saying there seems to be a gap between the community and state legislators, said Dejong. 

Dejong has taken the responsibility of ensuring he bridges that gap, spending his time communicating with attorneys on behalf of Allendale township.

“In the last two weeks, we received two outside attorney’s opinions on what the health department is doing. Both of those attorneys concurred that what the health department is doing meets the state’s statutes and we can not override what the health department is doing,” said Dejong. 

Dejong also met with state legislatures to ensure he is communicating with them on behalf of the concerned Allendale township residents.

“I met personally with our state legislators to see if they could introduce any kind of legislation to help us out,” said Dejong. “They tell you they’re looking into it, but that’s months.”

Although Dejong and the board may be at a current standstill concerning a potential change in the mandate, they have full intention to continue valuing the public’s opinions now and in the future, said Dejong. 

“I took this assignment personally and worked on this thing as hard as I can trying to answer as many emails as I can and texts,” Dejong said.

The community will continue to voice their concerns over the mask mandates, although the Allendale Township board can only take so many steps in assuring everyone’s opinions are valued. Regardless of the amount of change the board is able to make, Dejong looks to the future with hope. He asks the important question, “what can we do to pull our community together?”

The public comment section of the meeting, where Dejong discussed the concerns over the mask mandate, ended with his appreciation. Dejong shared this appreciation for the community, saying, “people are really passionate about this and we appreciate that.”