Potential turning point in masking policy

DESE to drop state-wide mask mandate in schools


Matea Rowe-Bond

Senior Jason Levin (right) checks his phone, fully-masked, while waiting to be subbed into the soccer match. Senior Adam Mowry (left) lowers his mask to drink water after subbing out of the game.

Amelia Sinclair, Assistant News Editor

Massachusetts Commissioner of Education Jeffrey Riley announced that the mask mandate for all K-12 schools in the state will expire on Feb. 28; however, the Northborough Southborough Regional School Committee retains the final say on Algonquin’s masking policy.

While the mandate will be lifted for all students and staff, and individual districts will determine when they will lift or alter their mandates, there are certain situations in which masking will still be recommended by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Some scenarios include:

     1. The five days following a positive individual’s five-day isolation

     2. Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 (these individuals must also receive a negative PCR test)

     3. Unvaccinated individuals

While masking in schools will no longer be mandated by the state, each local school district and committee reserves the final say for the masking protocols within their schools.

“We need to think of it as a lessening of masks, rather than no masks, once the mask policy is rescinded/revised,” District Wellness Coordinator Mary Ellen Duggan said in an email interview. “Masks will still be required on the bus (federal law), in the health office as it is a healthcare setting… Many individuals will choose to continue to mask, and we need to respect each person’s choice.” 

According to Superintendent Greg Martineau, the Regional School Committee (RSC) plans to discuss how to proceed regarding masking at their Feb. 16 meeting.

“The RSC Policy Subcommittee met on Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022, to review the current Face Covering Policy I-170 and prepare to present a modified policy for the larger committee to consider,” Martineau said in an email interview.

Massachusetts state-wide testing options—weekly PCR and rapid tests—will remain available to students and staff. Pooled screening at ARHS takes place each Monday, and students may opt-in here

Duggan explains that pooled testing is not the only mitigation strategy to be utilized as regulations relax; maintaining proper hand-hygiene by sanitizing and washing hands, promoting vaccination and using high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters are also important.

“It is imperative that if individuals have any symptoms that they stay home,” Duggan said in her email.

While masking will no longer be state-mandated in schools, the federal mask mandate for all public transportation, including school buses, will remain in effect.