Students will likely be wearing masks on return in September

Supt. Brenda Cassellius and Acting Mayor Kim Janey have signaled over the past week that while students will be returning full-time to the Boston Public Schools in September, they will probably be mandated to wear masks during school time.

They do not expect, however, to have to apply social distance restrictions to the school day.

Supt. Cassellius said last Friday in a communication to parents that she expects students and staff will need to wear masks during the fall inside school buildings and on school buses.

“BPS expects that all students and staff will be required to wear masks while inside school buildings and during yellow bus transportation when they return to school in September,” she wrote. “We know that our students age 11 and under cannot yet be vaccinated and for ages 12 to 15 only 18% in the city of Boston are vaccinated right now. For ages 16 to 24, only 52% are vaccinated. Vaccines are the best way to protect ourselves from COVID-19, and masking is also an important prevention tool we must use. BPS does not plan to mandate physical distancing when we return to school this fall.”

Acting Mayor Janey, in a statement, said she is on the same page with a potential mask mandate for students in September.

“Mayor Janey has reiterated masks are currently required for students and staff in school buildings,” read a statement from the Mayor’s Office. “Future school mask guidance will be informed by public health data and provided to families by BPS.”

The Voices for BPS Families, a citywide group of parents focused on kids returning to school, said they support any measure, including mask mandates, that will keep kids in school full-time.

“First we commend Mayor Janey for proactively communicating to parents and stakeholders this information so families have time to prepare for September,” said Erica Haydock, of Voices. “We are in support of measures that will get students back to full time in person learning in September which align with the latest CDC guidance. The CDC just announced that ‘everyone in K through 12 schools wear a mask indoors, including teachers, staff, students and visitors, regardless of vaccination status.’ Children should return to full-time, in-person learning in the fall with proper prevention strategies in place.”

Cassellius said CDC guidance does recommend social distancing, but if it is not possible in school district, the priority should be getting kids back to in-person learning using other safeguards like masks, hand-washing and good ventilation.

The district is awaiting more information from the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), which has been slow in announcing its safety recommendations and mandates for the upcoming school year.

Cassellius said they will roll out a final plan once they have guidance from DESE and the City’s Boston Public Health Commission consultants.

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