COVID

Mass. Early Education board approves mask mandate for children 5 and up

The mandate applies to state-licensed daycares and other educational programs.

Youngsters wear vests and masks and hold on to a strap as they take a wlak outdoors on Arlington Street escorted by adults childcare providers in this file photo. Photo by John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

After Labor Day, all teachers, staff, and children 5 and older in state-licensed daycare and education programs will be required to wear masks indoors.

The state Board of Early Education and Care voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a policy consistent with the general schools policy approved last week, the State House News Service reported. Adults and children over 5-years-old will be required to wear masks regardless of vaccination status, and children between 2 and 5 will be strongly encouraged to wear masks. Exemptions apply: students will not be required to wear masks while sleeping or eating, or if they have certain physical or behavioral conditions.

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Gov. Charlie Baker said Tuesday he agrees with the policy.

“I think they’re viewing that at this point in time as an appropriate measure as, you know, school starts and as people start incorporating more of those early ed programs into their daily lives, I think it makes sense,” he said.

The policy applies to after and outside-of-school programming, including programs at places like the YMCA. 

“We’re happy to see EEC is responding and giving clarity to the early education and care field that’s working so hard every day to ensure smooth transitions for students and families,” Amy O’Leary, the Early Education for All campaign director at Strategies for Children, told NBC 10 Boston.

According to SHNS, the board also voted to give Early Education Commissioner Samantha Aigner-Treworgy the ability to relax some early education teacher credentialing policies to facilitate hires. A formal plan will be presented Sept. 14.

“What we’re hearing is that even as people think about compensation and addressing benefits, that it is a hard sell for people to come back into a workforce during a health crisis and be able to play this critical role for the commonwealth, but also accommodate their own needs around child care and their personal needs as they step back into the workforce,” Aigner-Treworgy said.

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Any staff vaccine mandate would likely come in the form of an order from the Department of Public Health, Education Secretary Jim Peyser said at the meeting.

“There may come a moment when the data suggests we absolutely owe it to the children,” Chair Nonie Lesaux added.

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