So far, two school districts in Massachusetts have demonstrated at least 80% of students and staff have been vaccinated, the threshold for state education officials to allow an exception to mask mandates.
The districts are Hopkinton and Ashland public schools, according to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education on Friday. But students in those towns aren't able to take off their masks indoors just yet.
Hopkinton had submitted the necessary documentation earlier this week and DESE granted a request to lift the mask mandate at Hopkinton High School. Hopkinton school officials at a recent meeting discussed lifting the masking rules, but no decision was made. They'll meet again on Oct. 21 to discuss the issue again and potentially vote.
In a statement, Hopkinton Superintendent Carol Cavanaugh wrote, in part, that school officials "are taking a cautious, informed approach in order to mitigate risk and to be prepared for the logistics of unmasking, if that does end up being the decision."
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And in Ashland, Superintendent of Schools Jim Adams told the community that he'd requested a waiver for Ashland High School, but said he doesn't expect any changes on the horizon.
He said in a letter that, "while DESE may grant us a waiver, however, it is up to our local boards to determine if this is the right thing for Ashland."
The town's school committee will take up the topic at future meetings, Adams said, but "I DO NOT anticipate any immediate change to our practice at this time."
Massachusetts education officials implemented the mask mandate in August, requiring masks indoors, with a few exceptions, for students at least 5 years old and staff unless 80% of them are vaccinated.
"For now, the safest and simplest path forward is to mask up in schools," Massachusetts Education Secretary James Peyser said at the time.
Last month, the mandate was extended through at least Nov. 1.