MARLBOROUGH – Marlborough Public Schools students and staff returned to classes today with the option to remove their masks.
This followed a vote by the School Committee on Tuesday and marked a welcome step for many after nearly two years of mask wearing due to COVID-19.
“Students, staff, and visitors are not required to wear a face mask in school buildings but may do so if desired,” Superintendent Michael Bergeron wrote in a message to community members on Wednesday. “The district supports any student, staff, or visitor’s decision to wear a mask.”
School Committee votes to end mandate
The School Committee met on Tuesday to discuss changing its mask policy.
Multiple individuals spoke in public comment, with some advocating for an end to the mandate and one person asking to keep it in place.
Marlborough Education Association President Eileen Barry added that she had spoken with staff members who supported a change.
Those individuals included a speech teacher who had noted the difficulties of teaching with mask requirements in place.
“It was 100%, those communications were that they think it’s time to have it more of a flexible option,” Barry said of staff feedback.
The committee eventually opted to transition to a flexible masking model, emphasizing individuals’ right to choose to mask if they want to.
“We would like to make a situation feasible that everyone has a choice about what they like to do to feel comfortable,” School Committee member Katherine Hennessy said.
Schools to scale back other mitigation
Bergeron noted low case counts in his presentation to the School Committee prior to the committee’s vote.
He recommended, after further discussion, that schools “limit or remove” other mitigation measures, including specific limitations at lunch periods.
“It doesn’t make sense for students to have story time on the rug, but to not allow them to eat lunch together,” he said, noting that he was speaking as an individual.
Masks remain required in some situations
Masks are also now optional on school buses.
But they remain required in school health offices and in situations where individuals return to school after a shortened five-day isolation period following a positive COVID-19 test.
“Those aren’t a local control issue right now because there are still regulations that we have to follow,” Bergeron said, citing state rules.
Marlborough plans to continue to make rapid tests available, in the meantime.
The rapid test program has replaced the state’s test-and-stay protocols, now sending test kits home with students and staff who request them.
“We will continue doing that throughout the school year,” Bergeron said.
Marlborough follows area neighbors
All this does follow a sharp decline in COVID-19 cases following the Omicron variant case surge earlier this year.
Area districts have recently opted to remove their mask mandates, in kind, following a state decision to let its requirement lapse on Feb. 28.
Bergeron’s announcement of Marlborough’s policy change is available online. It can be viewed by visiting https://www.mps-edu.org/cms/lib/MA02212715/Centricity/Domain/4/Mask%20Policy%20Update.pdf