BOSTON — Teachers, staff and children age 5 and older who are enrolled in state-licensed day care, after-school and out-of-school programs will be required to wear masks indoors starting after Labor Day, consistent with the back-to-school policy rolled out last week by the state.
The Board of Early Education and Care voted unanimously to align its masking policies for programs under its oversight with those being deployed in K-12 public schools as children across Massachusetts return to in-person learning over the next couple of weeks.
The policy applies to adults regardless of vaccination status, and does not have an expiration date. Children between the ages of 2 and 5 will be “strongly” encouraged to wear a mask indoors if they are able.
Gov. Charlie Baker, who held a press conference shortly before the vote, said he agreed with the approach.
“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,” Baker said.
The board also voted to give Early Education Commissioner Samantha Aigner-Treworgy the authority to relax some of the early education teacher credentialing policies to increase the pipelines of people willing to take jobs in day care and after-school programs.
Aigner-Treworgy said she will present a formal plan to the board at its Sept. 14 meeting, but described the relaxed protocols under consideration as changes that would be temporary and would not detract from the health and safety standards.
“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.
Education Secretary Jim Peyser told several of the board members that should COVID-19 conditions reach the point where the board wanted to consider a vaccine mandate for early education teachers and staff, an order from the Department of Public Health would probably be required.
“There may come a moment when the data suggests we absolutely owe it to the children,” said Chair Nonie Lesaux.
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