HUDSON – Masks are now optional in Hudson schools, effective immediately, following a vote by the School Committee on Tuesday night.
The decision was unanimous, making Hudson the latest in a growing list of area communities to move away from mandatory masking.
“We are grateful for everyone’s patience and understanding about this situation,” Superintendent Marco Rodrigues wrote in a message to families on Wednesday morning. “We look forward to the successful implementation of a Mask Friendly Environment.”
School Committee amends initial plan
The district initially had plans to suspend its mask policy effective March 14.
Several community members voiced their opinions in comments to the School Committee, advocating for the change but asking that it, instead, take place immediately.
The March 14 date, Rodrigues said, had been set to allow two weeks to pass following February vacation and any possible increase in COVID-19 cases triggered by that break.
“I think the numbers right now are very favorable to Hudson and to the state,” he said. “It’s awesome to see it.”
The School Committee approved a motion to, indeed, make this change effective immediately.
Masks still required in certain settings
Masks will continue to be required in nurses’ offices.
Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 will also have to wear masks for a period following their return to school after isolating for five days.
This rule also applies to asymptomatic, unvaccinated individuals who are close contacts outside of the school setting.
Staff members, meanwhile, will have to wear masks if a member of their pool testing group tests positive for COVID-19. They will need to continue to wear masks until that individual case is identified.
Rodrigues noted in his communication to parents that this usually happens within one day.
District discusses next steps
As the district moves to flexible masking, leaders have emphasized a need for productive conversations about individuals’ right to choose whether to wear a mask.
“We have to be mindful of that,” Rodrigues said during the School Committee meeting.
He continued in his communication on Wednesday, noting that the district may revisit its policy in the future, possibly returning to a mask mandate, if circumstances change.
Change follows decrease in COVID-19 cases
Hudson has seen COVID-19 case rates fall in recent weeks since the height of the Omicron variant surge earlier this year.
In particular, the Health Department celebrated a milestone day with no known cases in town last Friday.
“This is a very steep decline from the hundreds of weekly cases just a few months ago,” the department wrote in a message on social media.
This trend has continued elsewhere in the region, the state and the country, with case rates falling.
Though Hudson never implemented a town-wide mask mandate amid the recent case surge, other nearby communities that did take such action have rescinded their measures.
Area school districts have similarly opted to lift their mandates following a decision by state officials to let the state-wide mask requirement in schools lapse on Feb. 28.
Just across town lines, the Marlborough School Committee also voted on Tuesday to make masks optional, effective on Thursday.
Committee members thank public for feedback
Back in Hudson, School Committee members thanked the community for their comments and feedback.
“That helps us make good decisions and improve our schools,” Mark Terra-Salomão said.
“I’m very pleased to have the public participation be as respectful as it was, because it has not been that way for other hot button items in the past,” Adam Tracy added, in part.
He spoke on the broader process of evolving COVID-19 challenges and the responses to them, hoping that recent developments will mark “a different phase of things.”
“We’ll stay vigilant and, if things have to change, then we’ll have change them,” he said. “We will just make the best decisions that we can with the data that we have and the information that we have at the current time.”
See Rodrigues’ full update explaining changes to masking in Hudson schools at https://p10cdn4static.sharpschool.com/UserFiles/Servers/Server_19988324/File/Superintendent/Letter%20to%20families%20and%20staff%20re%20mask%20requirement%20%20Revised%203-9-22.pdf.