Despite Gov. Baker’s lifting of school mask mandate Feb. 28, Mayor Christenson says masks will stay on
When Gov. Charlie Baker declared that he was ordering the mask mandate dropped in schools across the Commonwealth on February 28, it was also stated it would be a local option as of that date. Last Friday, Malden Mayor Gary Christenson erased any mystery as to what path this city would follow. The nearly 7,000 Malden Public Schools population of students and staff will continue to wear protective facemasks inside its seven school buildings after Feb. 28 and for the foreseeable future, until at least March 14, Mayor Christenson announced on Feb. 11.
The wearing of facemasks in school buildings has been put into place statewide to guard against the spread of the COVID-19 virus, which has been a worldwide pandemic for nearly two full years since it was first declared in March 2020.
The Mayor was clear on the timetable that is in place for the city, which would be contingent on a formal decision by the Malden School Committee, which initiated the in-school mask mandate that has been in place this entire school year at a late-August meeting. “The next step is for the Malden School Committee to determine whether to revise that policy, which we plan to do at our next official meeting on Monday, March 7 at 6 pm at City Hall in the Council Chamber,” Mayor Christenson, who also serves as chairperson of the School Committee, said in an official statement on Friday.
Even if the School Committee votes to end the school mask mandate, it would not go into effect until at least a full week after such a vote, as of Monday, March 14. A lifting of the mask mandate would still include making it an option for any student or staff member to continue wearing a mask.
Positive COVID-19 cases have been plummeting dramatically, both locally and statewide, across cities and towns and in the schools themselves. According to the Malden Public Schools’ “COVID Dashboard,” as of Wednesday this week, only 21 new cases of COVID-19 among students and just two cases among staff – districtwide – were reported in the week prior to the data release. That is less than 1% of the district’s total population.
The Mayor noted that he and other city and school officials “received many inquiries on Governor Baker’s recent announcement that the statewide mask mandate for schools would end on February 28…One of the questions has been what this means for the Malden Public Schools and the districtwide mask policy that was already in place prior to the state’s original order,” he stated.
Mayor Christenson pointed to the fact that Malden Public Schools will be joining schools across the state in going on February School Vacation next week and that one of the reasons for the continued use of masks after the return from vacation February 27 was to “account for a potential spike [in COVID-19 cases] after February vacation, as we saw after the winter [school vacation week from December 23-January].”
Mayor Christenson stated that instead of making a determination sooner than the prescribed date – a full week after the March 7 School Committee meeting – Malden’s move would be “to give an opportunity for our Health Department to make an official recommendation based on the current medical data… as well as hear from students, parents, and staff before making an informed decision.”
To that end, the Malden Public Schools, at the direction of Superintendent Dr. Ligia Noriega-Murphy, is now reviewing the results of a districtwide, online survey it conducted this past week, soliciting responses from students, staff and students’ caregivers, regarding the lifting of the mask mandate.
The Mayor noted that anyone who had any questions on the mask mandate could contact his office (781-397-7000) for answers.
“We thank you for your patience and only ask that you try to be respectful of the many differing opinions,” the Mayor said in his statement last week.