CHARLOTTE, Mich. (WLNS) — Despite Michigan eclipsing one million COVID-19 cases, dozens of students and parents protested outside of their school and local health department to oppose a new mask mandate.

As of yesterday, all students in schools in Barry and Eaton counties are required to wear masks starting.

But yesterday, many from Charlotte Public Schools took a stand.

There were a few gatherings this morning- outside of a high school, the other by the local health department.

People expressed their frustrations with masks being required in Charlotte schools.

“We had an exemption, a religious exemption we turned into the school and they would not honor that. So we feel our kids should not have to wear masks in schools,” said Ryan Garn, a Charlotte Public School parent.

The main message from officials? They’re just trying to keep everybody safe.

“We totally understand that people have the right to peacefully protest the things they don’t agree with,” remarked Anne Barna, the promotion director for the Barry-Eaton Health Department.

If you remember, some school districts in these counties had already required masks, but the latest mandate makes it consistent across the board.

“Our goals are to have everyone back in live instruction… we have all these people who are trying to serve our students and if people could think respectfully about how they communicate their opinions it would take a lot of burden off of them,” said Mandy Stewart, the Superintendent for Charlotte Public Schools.

It’s important to keep in mind some of the school districts in this area overlap counties, like Holt, Grand Ledge and Eaton Rapids. This mandate only affects the school buildings that are physically in Eaton or Barry counties.

The decision came after a rise in cases in recent weeks.

Students have been back in person for less than a month., and there have been 13 outbreaks in schools in these counties, according to health officials.

For the most part, protests remained polite, but the health department says police were called due to a few unruly people.

People on both sides say they hope that things remain respectful.