Schools

Mass. releases mask guidelines for the fall school year

The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is not requiring masking in school buildings.

Mary Altaffer / AP, File

Massachusetts state education officials released COVID-19 guidance for districts and schools on Friday, including their recommendations for the use of masks for the upcoming school year.

The department lifted mask requirements for vaccinated students on May 29, and that stance has not changed with the latest update. Officials aren’t requiring the use of masks in school buildings this fall, as they’ve previously stated, but they are making recommendations about when face coverings should be used.

Education officials “strongly recommend” students in kindergarten through sixth grade wear masks when indoors, except when the child cannot do so because of medical or behavioral needs. Education and public health officials also “strongly recommend” that any unvaccinated staff, across all grades, and unvaccinated students in grades 7 and up wear masks indoors.

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Unvaccinated visitors to the schools should also be encouraged to wear masks inside, according to the state. 

The new guidance from DESE comes as some lawmakers have been pushing state officials to reinstate an indoor mask requirement for both students and staff in child care centers and elementary schools, until COVID-19 vaccines are accessible for kids under the age of 12. And some districts, including Boston, have already announced plans to mandate masks in school buildings this fall.

The American Academy of Pediatrics released a recommendation last week that everyone over the age of 2, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks in schools for the fall school year. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that masks should be worn indoors by all individuals who are not fully vaccinated, aged 2 and older. The federal agency also recommends that when it is not possible to maintain physical distancing of at least 3 feet between students in classrooms, other prevention strategies, such as indoor masking should be used to “reduce transmission risk.”

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As of Friday, state education and public health officials are recommending that “schools allow vaccinated students to remain unmasked.”

However, anyone who is at higher risk for severe disease from COVID-19 or who has a household member at high risk is “encouraged” to wear a mask regardless of their vaccination status, according to DESE. 

“Any child or family who prefers to mask at school should be supported in this choice,” the guidance states. 

All students and staff must wear masks inside school health offices, and under federal rules, students and staff are required to wear masks aboard school buses. 

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Read the full COVID-19 guidance for schools below:

2021-0730fall-2021-covid19-guidance by dialynn dwyer on Scribd

Watch Gov. Charlie Baker discuss the guidance below:

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