“Masking has been and will continue to be a critical component of our health and safety protocols.”
Boston Public Schools will keep a mask requirement in place for students and staff even after the state’s mandate ends later this month.
“Boston Public Schools is reviewing today’s announcement from state officials on masking in schools,” BPS said in a statement on Wednesday, after Gov. Charlie Baker and other state officials announced the state-level policy will end on Feb. 28. “We remain in close contact with our partners at the Boston Public Health Commission and will continue our masking requirements for students and staff in our schools and on our school buses.”
Mayor Michelle Wu confirmed on Thursday morning masks will not be leaving the city’s schools.
Amid declining COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts, and following suit with other states, Baker and Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley said the state will not renew the mask mandate for K-12 schools and child care providers when it expires at the end of the month.
Instead, education regulators said students and staff should wear masks in “certain scenarios,” such as on school buses and when returning to class after testing positive for the virus.
While the mask requirement will no longer be the state standard, Baker said local officials may establish their own policies, should they want to do so.
Students and teachers are also free to continue wearing face coverings. Baker and Riley urged education leaders to support those personal decisions.
“We ask all school leaders and students to make sure they respect all individual choices around mask wearing,” Riley said at a press conference on Wednesday. “Please make sure to create a supportive environment that respects everyone’s choice to do what is most appropriate and comfortable for them.”
In its statement, BPS highlighted masks have been central to the district’s approach in addressing COVID in classrooms.
“Masking has been and will continue to be a critical component of our health and safety protocols along with access to COVID-19 testing, efforts to vaccinate eligible students and staff, and the work to promote ventilation in school buildings,” the statement says.
Wu, in a tweet from her personal Twitter account on Wednesday night, demonstrated there’s support — some, at least — among students for keeping the mask rules in place.
Wu met with over 70 of the district’s “most engaged high schoolers” and asked how many of them believe the masks should be kept on past Feb. 28, she wrote.
A photo showed nearly all of the students with their hands raised.
The group, BPS Families for COVID Safety, which advocates for increased pandemic safety measures in the city’s schools, had also urged city officials to keep the mask mandate in place.
The advocates, in a statement, cited the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s continued recommendation masks be worn in schools.
“There will be a time to remove mask mandates in schools, but this is not that time,” the group said.
Boston schools are by no means alone in their decision.
Several districts throughout Massachusetts on Wednesday already signaled they have no plans to change their mask policies, including those in Somerville, Chelsea, and Northampton, according to The Boston Globe.
“We’ll continue to evaluate local, state, and national guidance, and modify our safety measures according to community data and expert recommendations,” Somerville Public Schools spokeswoman Susana Hernandez Morgan told the newspaper in an e-mail. “We will share any updates that we may make to our current protocols as they’re determined.”
Decision-making has only just begun for other districts.
Officials in Needham, Salem, Natick, and Worcester all indicated to the Globe they intended to think over, in some form, what to do next.
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