The School Committee unanimously voted to lift the school mask mandate, effective March 14. Students and staff will still have the option to wear masks to school, if they so choose. The lifting of the mandate will take place two weeks after the date the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) set as the earliest date school districts can lift the mandate. The additional time means the mask mandate will not be dropped immediately after the end of February school vacation, when many students and parents could be returning from travel.
“I know there’s never going to be one way that’s going to make everyone happy,” said School Committee Vice-Chair Stacey Bronsdon-Rizzo. “I think we are all here, along with the community, to do what we think is best for our students and staff.”
Masks will still be required for students and staff following a positive COVID-19 test, on school transportation and in school health offices.
“I’m looking forward to a new chapter and a new day where we are moving away from this pandemic and learning to live with it responsibly, but bringing back a sense of normalcy to these kids and staff and our way of living,” said School Committee Member Aisha Milbury-Ellis. “I am happy about this vote, and I think we will restore some confidence that we are taking some proactive measures to bring to our families.”
During the public speaking portion of last Tuesday’s School Committee meeting, several parents spoke in favor of lifting the mask mandate, stating that they want their children to return to a school routine with a sense of normalcy.
Parent Ralph DeCicco, however, cautioned the School Committee against lifting the mandate too soon. He also said it was unfair for DESE to punt the final decision down the road to the individual school districts. “I think it was poor judgment by DESE to put this on the schools and the communities for a date of the 28th, which is a day after school vacation,” said DeCicco.
Erik Fearing, speaking on behalf of the Revere Teachers Association (RTA), said the union was basically split on lifting the mask mandate and was taking no official stance. “The RTA did a quick poll of our membership over the weekend, and we’re not surprised to see it came out at about 51½ percent to 48½ percent in favor of keeping the mandate,” said Fearing.
Fearing said there were some concerns that were raised at an executive board meeting over the weekend, including the difficulty to police who is and isn’t required to wear a mask once the mandate is lifted. “It’s going to be the honor system for our students,” said Fearing. “If they can’t all wear masks, we can’t know who is supposed to wear a mask and who is not with any reliability.”
Fearing said the RTA was not opposed to the lifting of the mask mandate, but was not taking an official position.