CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – Updated COVID-19 guidelines were issued to school districts across Massachusetts as students begin to prepare for returning in the fall.

The state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and Department of Public Health (DPH) issued a document to school leaders Monday focusing on the latest COVID-19 information. Masks are optional and COVID testing is no longer required for schools.

Schools interested in implementing their own testing program or mask requirements may purchase self-tests and masks through the statewide contract.

22News spoke with parents about the COVID-19 guidelines. Jarell Rodriguez of East Longmeadow said she’s hopeful for a good school year this year, “I feel good about it, I think they got a good plan going on, so I feel good. I think this year is going to be good. We got to be hopeful.”

“I think it’s a little premature to take away all of those protections. I understand their need to try to get back to a sense of normalcy. I think we should take more baby steps and be a bit more cautious,” said Alan Hogan of Holyoke.

COVID-19 vaccine for children under 18 years old

Several vaccine clinics are scheduled for students, faculty, and staff members throughout August and September. The vaccine is recommended as the best way to protect against the effects of COVID-19. For a vaccine clinic near you visit Mass.gov/kidsclinic.

Children ages 6 months to 5 years old can get the Pfizer’s vaccine which is a three-dose series or the Moderna’s vaccine consists of two doses. 

The Pfizer vaccine for children 5 through 11 years of age is administered in 2 doses 3 weeks apart. It is a lower dose (10 micrograms) than vaccines used for individuals 12 years of age and older (30 micrograms). 

The Moderna vaccine for children ages 5-11 is administered in 2 doses, 28 days (1 month) apart at 50 micrograms per dose.

The Pfizer vaccines for people ages 12-17 years old are given in two doses, about three weeks apart. Moderna is given in 2 doses 28 days (1 month) apart. 

You need both doses to be fully protected. 

(Mass.gov)

COVID-19 Isolation and Precautions

According to the CDC, people who test positive should isolate from others for at least five days, regardless of whether they were vaccinated.

As of August 15, 2022, all students and staff in childcare, school in grades K-12, or participating in out-of-school time (OST) and recreational camp settings should follow the updated isolation and exposure guidance issued by DPH, in alignment with recently issued guidance from CDC. No asymptomatic person should be excluded from school as a result of exposure, regardless of vaccination status or exposure setting.

Schools are required to meet 180 school days, if a school closes due to COVID-19 emergencies, it will be treated like snow day closures.

Districts are encouraged to continue with the following ventilation recommendations:

  • Assess their ventilation systems and ensure they are operating properly
  • Conduct routine maintenance (such as replacing filters and repairing ductwork)
  • Consider adding air purifiers
  • Increase outdoor airflow supply such as by opening windows in classrooms as feasible
  • Open windows on school buses as feasible