Westborough Public Schools begin ‘thoughtful process’ to possibly relax masking policy

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By Stuart Foster, Contributing Writer

Westborough High School students working at their desks in a socially distanced classroom.
Westborough Schools Superintendent Amber Bock has applied for the state’s flexible masking policy that DESE has benchmarked for schools that are over 80 percent vaccinated. But the mask mandate remains in place for now as the district awaits a decision from the School Committee.
Photo/submitted

WESTBOROUGH – Westborough Schools Superintendent Amber Bock said at a School Committee meeting on Oct. 20 that she had applied to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) for flexible masking options.

The Westborough Public Schools had then received “the state’s acceptance of our application” for flexible masking at Gibbons Middle School and at Westborough High School, she said.

Bock said that no changes to the Westborough Public Schools masking policy will take place until the School Committee votes to approve such changes, though. 

Bock said that DESE is now providing opportunities for flexible masking in school settings that meet their benchmarks. Gibbons Middle School and Westborough High School both do meet those benchmarks. 

The current policy in Westborough Public Schools is for students and staff to wear masks.

“No changes will take place at those settings until we move forward with a thoughtful process,” Bock said.

That process will include a number of steps before a School Committee vote.

Bock said that she will attend the town’s next Board of Health meeting on Oct. 27 to talk about this process and to seek recommendations for metrics “for moving forward with optional masking.” 

Bock praised Westborough’s high vaccination rates and COVID-19 safety protocols, saying that the town had done everything right regarding its response to the pandemic.

“We are really looking for the Board of Health to use data and metrics grounded in the strong, positive recognition of how our community is doing, as well as the benchmark numbers at our six schools that demonstrate that we’re doing well,” Bock said. 

Bock said that, after she meets with the Board of Health, she will cycle back to speak with other committees.

Bock said she is pleased with where Westborough Public Schools are and said the district’s buildings are running very well.

“I want to give a shout out to our nursing staff and our faculty, who are very responsive to continue to use the test and stay, and the protocols of staying home if they have symptoms, and it’s put us in a really well-leveraged place to start to make some recommendations for changes,” Bock said. 

Bock said that, after the Board of Health meeting, she would develop some parameters, which she would then bring to the next School Committee meeting to give a more “robust” update.

This discussion in Westborough takes place as other area districts discuss their own masking policies. 

The Northborough Southborough Regional School District has also applied with the state for local control of its mask mandate. A proposal to immediately remove the mask mandate once state approval comes, however, failed to garner support among members of the Regional School Committee last week. 

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