On Monday, December 6th, Scituate’s School Committee ruled in favor of amending the masking policy currently in place at Scituate Public Schools. Stating that “face coverings must be worn by all individuals in school buildings, on school grounds and on school transportation, even when social distancing is observed,” this change in policy allows for discretion of the masking policy to be at a building-level rather than as a district policy.
This policy does not change the current masking requirements in Scituate Public Schools, but rather gives Superintendent William Burkhead the power to decide if and when a mask-flexible policy would be implemented. Superintendent Burkhead made it a point to stress that this policy makes Scituate schools “mask-flexible” rather than “mask-optional,” enforcing the idea that students must be fully vaccinated in order to remove their masks in school.
In order to be considered to go mask-flexible, a school must be at least 80% vaccinated per the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s guidelines. Currently, Scituate High School is the only building in the district to pass this threshold.
At the meeting, Burkhead addressed many of the committee’s questions and comments regarding his plans moving forward if the vote were to pass, such as when he hopes to implement this “mask-flexible” policy. The superintendent expressed high hopes of going mask-flexible by December 15th, explaining how he meets regularly with SHS nurses and principals to review COVID case numbers. He has also convened with surrounding towns’ school administrators who have gone mask-flexible and hopes to follow in their footsteps.
Although some in attendance at the meeting expressed concern with this tentative date, feeling as though it is pointless to change the masking policy just a week before the holiday break, Burkhead explained how this small window of time provides the school with a brief testing period to see how things go. He was also sure to reiterate the point that this policy could be retracted at any point if case numbers or in-school transmission rates increase significantly, prioritizing the safety of the students and staff.
Although December 15 has been noted as a potential date to go mask-flexible at Scituate High, all six Scituate Public Schools are currently still requiring face coverings to be worn at all times in the buildings. The school committee concluded by stating that more information regarding whether this mask-flexible policy will be implemented will be shared with the community over the coming days and weeks.