No decision made yet on mask mandate extension for Massachusetts schools

Boston Statehouse

BOSTON (WWLP) – To start the school year, the Department of Education put a mask mandate in place until November 1st, which is right around the corner.

Education officials met Tuesday to discuss their plans moving forward and while they haven’t made any final decisions yet, they plan to release more information about the mask mandate sometime next week. Right now all K-12 students in Massachusetts have to wear a mask in the classroom. The only exceptions are schools where at least 80 percent of students and staff are fully vaccinated.

With the deadline around the corner, some parents are again stressing safety measures with their kids making sure they’re still protected if the mandate lifts.

“I feel like it’s going to feel weird when they take away the masks,” said Yashira Carrasco of Springfield. Carrasco has two children who go to Springfield Public Schools. “If they feel like a kid is sick, try to stay away, wash their hands, keep their distance all the time so it’s going to be the same procedure.”

Roxanne Turowsky, owner of Giggle Gardens Learning Center in Springfield, worries about children going maskless at her facility.

“We do get children from all different schools,” said Turowksy. “I think we should wait at least another month because if not we will probably be all sick for Thanksgiving. So I would like to keep the mask mandate.”

Since a vaccine hasn’t been developed for kids under the age of 12, that limits the number of schools that are eligible to remove their mask mandates. Currently, only Hopkinton High School has been approved by DESE to lift their mask mandate.

“The reason we put the 80 percent in is because we felt that that was a point at which buildings could be considered appropriate for having vaccinated people unmasked. We believe that unvaccinated people should continue to wear masks and that’s been our guidance,” said Governor Baker.

Education Commissioner Jeff Riley said the state is using a robust testing system to check kids for COVID right on school grounds. The Baker administration is hoping to move to a ‘test and stay’ model, which would give families access to at home tests so that students don’t come to school when they are sick.

Last week, close to 2,000 students tested positive for COVID and 300 staff members did as well. The board is getting pressure from educators to keep the mask mandate in place but many parents are still pushing for their kids to return to the classroom mask free.

22News will be following the boards work and we will provide you with an update on the policy as soon as it’s decided.

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