DESE says schools with over 80% student and staff population fully vaccinated can take off masks

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CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education updated their mask mandate to extend the requirement for all public schools through November 1st.

“The evidence that I’m hearing from public health experts in our community is that we should keep the mask mandate, particularly as we head towards winter,” Amherst Regional Schools Superintendent, Michael Morris told 22News.

But DESE is giving some schools an out. Middle and high schools with 80% of their students and staff vaccinated will have the option to lift the mask mandate by submitting a form to the department on October 15th. If schools meet the 80% mark right now, they can submit the form before the 15th.

Superintendent Morris told 22News their 12 to 15 year old student and staff vaccination rate is over that 80% threshold but they’re keeping the masks. “We’re not planning on revisiting the mask mandate at this point,” he said.

The mask exception is for middle and high schools only since they’re currently eligible for COVID-19 vaccines and younger grades are not. The vaccination rate is a school-by-school decision, not a district level.

“The CDC just came out with a recent study that showed that school districts that had mask mandates, they were successful in reducing [COVID-19] spread and we’ve had no cases of in school spread of COVID,” Morris continued.

Along with Amherst Regional, communities with vaccination rates at 80% or above among both middle and high school aged children are, Longmeadow, Colrain, Bernardston, Shelburne, Williamsburg and Hatsfield.

Unvaccinated students and staff would still be required to wear masks if a school opted out of the requirements.

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