SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Mask wearing will be up to the parents for students attending Catholic schools in the Diocese of Springfield this fall.

In a news release sent to 22News, the reopening guidance was issued for the Catholic schools in the Diocese of Springfield allowing parents to decide whether or not their children will have to wear masks in school. The the superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Springfield Diocese will monitor the COVID-19 protocols throughout the school year and adjust the guidelines if necessary.

“We have a responsibility to support our parents as the primary educators of their children in our schools.
The protocols we put in place last year demonstrated that we are committed to the safety of our students,
while at the same time making decisions that supported social, emotional, spiritual, and academic
excellence in our schools. The plan worked. The protocols for this year keep the same vision in mind,” said
Daniel Baillargeon, the superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Springfield Diocese.

Masks are recommended for unvaccinated staff and visitors. Students will be spaced at a minimum of 3-feet apart, washing stations and hand sanitizer are in each school with cleaning protocols and isolated areas for symptomatic students. Parents should monitor their children for symptoms of COVID-19 and keep them home if they are sick.

There is not a statewide mandate to require mask-wearing among students, it is up to the school districts to decide. The state education department is strongly recommending students Kindergarten through 6th grade and students unvaccinated wear masks. 

Superintendent Baillargeon said feedback from parents and staff showed the majority wanted to be able to choose whether or not to wear masks. “Our schools will be safe, academically excellent, and Christ-centered learning environments. We must rely on Jesus Christ in all of the decisions we make knowing of His constant presence and care for us, our students, our personnel, and our families,” he said.

St. Mary School in Lee and St. Mary Academy in Longmeadow both begin classes on Wednesday, August 25.

A letter explaining the safety protocols in place last fall had little to no spread of COVID-19 for in-person learning was sent to families, pastors and school employees:

Letter from the Superintendent

Dear Families, Pastors, Employees, and Friends of our Diocese of Springfield Catholic Schools,

In the summer of last year, the Diocese of Springfield made the bold decision to open all of its schools for in-person learning. Working closely with local and state departments of public health and health professionals, and following the guidelines set forth by the State Departments of Education, plans were developed to ensure the safe opening and operation of our school facilities. All schools demonstrated evidence of little to no spread of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) throughout their communities while being in-person. As a result, Catholic school students and families were provided a high quality Catholic education in the face of adversity.

As we look forward to the 2021-2022 school year, the Diocese of Springfield will continue to grow and welcome new families into our school communities while ensuring the health and safety of our students, their families, and our faculties and staff. These updated guidelines and protocols are built using school data and in consultation with other educational professionals. Their validity has been reinforced by health professionals. Each school will continue to work closely with public health authorities in monitoring the health and safety practices of our schools. The protocols prioritize school community health standards while supporting a more normal learning environment.

The Catholic Schools of the Diocese of Springfield partner with parents and guardians in the formation of their children. In consultation with health care professionals, in reviewing relevant data, and in following our mission to provide for the total development of every child in our care, we recommend that parents and guardians should have the freedom to decide whether or not their children wear a mask in our schools. We feel with our mitigation efforts, a year of successful in-person learning accomplished, and an ongoing commitment to monitor the pandemic using objective data, we have demonstrated that our schools will continue to be safe environments conducive to learning at the highest level. We will also modify our guidance should it become necessary.

We appreciate your continued support, trust, and prayers as we look forward to Getting Back to Better for the 2021-2022 academic year.

May God bless you and your family.

In Christ through Mary,
Daniel R. Baillargeon, PhD
Superintendent of Catholic Schools
Diocese of Springfield