SOUTH HADLEY, Mass. (WWLP) – Since the start of the pandemic schools have faced challenge after challenge, trying to keep kids on track with their education.

Roughly two years in and the state is trying to make sure they stay in the classroom, 22News spoke with the superintendent at Amherst-Pelham regional schools about a rise in absences.

“We are seeing an increase for sure but it’s perhaps less dramatic than other communities.” Michael Morris, Superintendent, Amherst-Pelham Regional Public Schools

Dr. Morris went on to say he credits the district being able to function amid the surge to the precautions that have in place. “When the state numbers came out on Thursday, looking district by district we have good ventilation in our schools, high vaccination rate, high compliance with safety measures.” Michael Morris – Superintendent, Amherst-Pelham Regional Public Schools

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education reported over 50,000 cases within the Massachusetts school system and has extended the mask requirement for schools.

The Amherst school district is taking that requirement a step further, students and staff at Amherst-Pelham Regional Schools will now be required to wear a medical grade masks. In other words, homemade or store bought cloth masks can only be worn if a medical grade masks is underneath.

The district purchased a large quantity of these medical grade masks. “We didn’t want cost to be a barrier for having a high efficiency mask, and we felt that from an equity lens it didn’t feel great, they are expensive especially as they can only be used a couple of times at best.” Michael Morris, Superintendent, Amherst-Pelham Regional Public Schools

The masks they purchased are KN95’s, which they ordered in various sizes for the different age groups. The type of mask is not part of the state issued mandate for schools, just that they need to wear one.