Massachusetts Schools Will Not Require Masks This Fall
As the school year wraps up and summer vacation kicks in, one of the biggest questions on the minds of students, teachers, and parents alike is whether or not masks will be required at school in the fall.
When Governor Charlie Baker lifted the mask mandate for fully vaccinated people, one of the locations where the requirement continued was in schools.
Since the COVID-19 vaccine has become more available, and the percentage of Massachusetts residents that are fully vaccinated approaches 70 percent, it looks like schools are going to have some leeway about wearing masks this fall.
No More Mask Requirement in Massachusetts Schools
In a memo to Fairhaven Public School parents, Assistant Superintendent Tara Kohler announced that "as a result of our community's diligence to health and safety during the pandemic, I'm very happy to report that as of yesterday afternoon, Dr. Baldwin and I were informed that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is intending to not require masks in schools for the 2021-2022 school year, per Commissioner (Jeffrey) Riley." Fairhaven Superintendent Robert Baldwin is currently serving as President of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents.
Kohler admitted she was pretty surprised by the sudden turnaround. Two weeks prior to finding out this news, the state's superintendents were told to make plans for a masked return to school.
Kohler said the plan is to have no masks and no social distancing.
"It will be as if none of this ever happened," she said. When asked if vaccines would enter into the equation, she said no. Children who are not vaccinated will also not be required to wear a mask.
Read the memo in its entirety: Fairhaven Letter to Families Regarding Masks
Massachusetts Guidelines on Masks in Schools Could Change
It is important to note that the memo mentions "following all state mandates," which means the no-mask decision is subject to change should the Commonwealth of Massachusetts adjust its COVID-19 guidelines by fall.
Commissioner Riley also recently stated that face masks are encouraged during 2021 summer school programs, but will not be required.
Classroom Mask Fatigue Had Set In
While teachers have been diligently wearing their masks, some admitted to a certain level of mask fatigue setting in. Teaching, of course, requires a tiring amount of talking on a good day, even without a mask. Throwing in a mask that not only muffles your voice, but also hides facial expressions that might show approval or displeasure – important non-verbal cues in a classroom setting – and that makes things all the more complicated.
Masks also make it difficult for students to project their voices to their classmates and teachers.
Whatever one's opinion about the merits of mask wearing, everyone can agree that masks make communication more difficult, particularly in schools. Of course, those that wish to continue wearing masks at school will be welcome to do so.