But following the recent rise in cases, the Superintendent’s Health Advisory Committee held an emergency meeting on Monday, which followed Provost’s reinstatement of the mandate by May 20, or longer, if deemed necessary.
Chelsea Public Schools also kept masks in place after the abolition of the state-wide mandate. The school committee voted in April to lift its mandate on May 9, but before the new rules came into force, Superintendent Almi G. Abeyta had announced Friday that there will continue to be demands for masks in schools until further notice.
“When the vote took place, COVID-19 rates were lower than they are right now,” Abeyta wrote. “As of today, the CDC has identified the Suffolk County COVID-19 community level as ‘High’, which includes a recommendation to wear masks indoors. Therefore, we will continue with our mask requirements and other COVID-19 protocols in our schools.”
Arlington, Belmont and Cambridge public schools earlier this week also recommended that students wear masks indoors, following the CDC’s classification of Middlesex County as having a high level of COVID-19 transmission. Some districts, including Boston Public Schools, never lifted their mask mandates.
In seven consecutive reporting weeks, there has been an increase in coronavirus cases among Massachusetts students and staff. Last week, the Department of Elementary Schools and Colleges had 8,079 new students and 2,636 among staff in the week ending May 5th.
DESE said its guidance for masks in schools will continue to be what the department outlined in recommendations released February 9thwhich should leave to the individual districts whether they should continue to demand them.
Teachers’ associations in the state called the recent increase in school cases concerning and suggested that schools return to let students wear masks in the classrooms.
“AFT MA believes we may need to return to masking in our classrooms to keep everyone safe,” said Beth Kontos, chair of the AFT Massachusetts branch. “There has been such a sharp increase in infections among our students and staff lately. We believe that the mesh mandate should be determined by the infection rates in a society.”
Merrie Najimy, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, said the MTA supports local teachers’ associations on how to deal with mask requirements by helping look at CDC guidelines and mitigation strategies that the MTA has recommended from the beginning.
She added that the state should start looking at this year’s cycle, with trends suggesting that schools should potentially “go back to masking in a short period of time.”
“Our concern with the increase in COVID cases is that the increase in cases after the school holidays has actually been a trend right from the beginning of COVID, and that is what we have been warning about since last January, when the Education Council voted to remove the mask mandate, ”said Najimy.