BOSTON — All students and staff in Boston’s public school district will be required to wear masks while inside school buildings and during yellow bus transportation when they return to school in September, the superintendent said Friday.
The district also does not plan to mandate physical distancing when students return to school this fall,Boston Public Schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius said in a letter to the school community.
“The CDC guidance states that physical distancing is one health and safety strategy, but if it is not possible to fully reopen schools while maintaining physical distancing, students should still learn in person and school districts should use other prevention strategies, like indoor masking, frequent hand-washing, and good indoor ventilation,” Cassellius said.
She also said masking is “an important prevention tool we must use.”
“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,” Cassellius said. “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.”
Boston’s Acting Mayor Kim Janey said this week that students in the state’s largest school district can expect to wear masks in fall. This comes as the Delta variant rages nationwide, now making up about 80 percent of COVID-19 cases.
In Massachusetts, a COVID cluster sprouted up in Provincetown, and positivity has risen in the past two weeks largely on the Cape and islands, according to public health data published on the state’s website.
“They will be wearing masks, still,” Janey told reporters Thursday.
Janey’s statement contradicts plans at the state level. Twice this week, officials told Boston 25 the mask mandate will not return to schools.
On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education confirmed that guidance has not changed:
“At this time, all health and safety guidance including masking and physical distancing will be lifted,” a DESE spokesperson said in an email.
“We will collaborate with the Department of Public Health (DPH) to issue any additional health and safety recommendations over the summer should they become necessary.”
On Thursday, Governor Charlie Baker was asked about the plans Thursday.
“We don’t have any plans to change our current policies with respect to schools in the fall,” Baker stated. “The fact that there are cases should not be surprising. There is a big difference between when you have no one vaccinated and cases when [you] have 4.3 million people vaccinated.”
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