It's been nearly two years since the COVID pandemic started to change our lives here in West Michigan. Many of us are exhausted with the changes, even if we know they're in place to keep us safe and healthy.

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And in a sign that shows that life may be returning closer to "normal" again, Grand Rapids Public Schools announced Wednesday that they will be lifting their mask mandates for students.

Group of children with face mask back at school after covid-19 quarantine and lockdown.
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The district said they plan to follow the lead of the county and state health departments in their mask protocols.

Starting Monday, masks for staff, students and visitors will no longer be required in buildings. However, they do still strongly suggest that people wear masks if they want or need to.

Students won't be entirely mask free throughout the school day if they ride the bus. Masks will still be required on school buses, per federal mandate. So, kids will need to keep that mask in their backpack if they plan to catch a ride to school on the bus.

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The district will still have some COVID policies in place as well, including requring those who test positive for COVID-19 to isolate for 5 days before returning to the classroom. They people can return on the sixth day, although they are still allowing and recommending up to 10 days for quarantine if wanted by the person who tested positive.

Grand Rapids public schools are following closely behind Holland public schools, who stated that masks can be optional as of February 18th.

This welcomed news shows signs of progress in our ongoing public health crisis, and I'm sure students across west Michigan will let out a sigh of relief at the news that they can finally get back to somewhat "normal" again if they choose.

10 Tips To Get Young Kids To Wear Masks

Michigan recently mandated children ages 2 to 4 have to wear masks in public places, a change from the previous mandate of 5 years old. Of course, that comes with its own set of challenges so here are a few tips!