School Committee votes for mask-optional policy, effective Feb. 28


Matea Rowe-Bond

Freshman Bri Franchitto sketches in Art 2 class on Nov. 10, 2021.

Amelia Sinclair, Assistant News Editor

The Regional School Committee (RSC) unanimously voted to remove the mask mandate, beginning on Feb. 28, after receiving a formal recommendation from the Medical Advisory Team (MAT) at their Feb. 17 meeting.

The new policy, which the MAT recommended, will remove the requirement to wear a mask in most areas of Algonquin—the exceptions being in the health office and on school buses/transportation. However, if attendance falls below 92%, Superintendent Gregory Martineau reserves the power to reinstate masking until the RSC can convene.

“Over the past three weeks, the daily attendance rate has been greater than 92% and steadily trending up; at the same time we have witnessed a steady decline in cases at the school, in the town, in the country and in the state,” the MAT recommendation read. “If these trends remain stable or improve, the Medical Advisory Team recommends that the Northborough-Southborough Regional School Committee lift the face covering requirement.”

When making their recommendation, the MAT analyzed a number of data points, both recent ones from the past two years of the pandemic and historic district data.

During the meeting, the MAT considered removing the mask mandate a few days after the end of February vacation due to concerns that the break would lead to an increase in cases. However, they found no correlation between COVID-19 case spikes and school breaks. 

District Wellness Coordinator Mary Ellen Duggan attributed the spike after December’s holiday vacation to the Omicron variant’s outbreak, not the vacation from school.

Out of Algonquin’s current enrollment of 1,267 students, there is an 88% vaccination rate as of Jan. 5. Out of Algonquin’s unvaccinated individuals, 40% have tested positive for COVID in the last five months. 

COVID-19 cases are declining in Algonquin, which is mirrored in the decline of cases in Northborough, Southborough and Massachusetts as a whole.

As the district moves to mask-optional, masks will still be required in some scenarios including:

  • Individuals returning after their five-day quarantine
  • On buses
  • In the health office

Mitigation measures will remain in place such as weekly, optional testing as well as self-employed techniques such as hand hygiene and COVID vaccination.