Boston Public Schools

Boston Parents Seek Return of Masks, COVID Testing Amid Increase in School Absences

With illnesses like COVID-19, the flu and RSV on the rise, BPS Families for COVID Safety is calling for a return of safety measures, including mandatory facial coverings and testing requirements

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As schools deal with absences due to illnesses including COVID-19 and the flu, some parents want Boston Public Schools to bring back mask mandates in the classroom.

"Today, this morning, my daughter tested positive for COVID," Sulieka Soto said.

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Soto is worried about her daughter. When students return to class in January, she and other parents want facial coverings and COVID-19 testing to be required again in Boston schools.

"It has to be something like a mandate for people to follow it," she said.

BPS Families for COVID Safety, an advocacy group, is asking for a 10-day mask mandate and PCR pool testing in response to the jump in COVID-19, influenza and RSV cases.

The group brought nearly 200 signatures to school headquarters Wednesday afternoon.

"Absentee rates of staff and of students are just higher than we've seen recently," said Jonathan Haines, a nurse at the McKinley School.

With cases rising since Thanksgiving, he fears fearing the same thing will happen after Christmas and New Year's.

"We think mandatory masking is what will make a difference," Haines said.

Dr. Sabrina Assoumou at Boston Medical Center and the Boston University School of Medicine says mandates are effective, but people need to be urged to take action, too.

"We should encourage people to get vaccinated. We should encourage them to wear masks indoors. We should encourage them to get tested," Assoumou said.

Boston Public Schools says the district monitors COVID rates constantly. In a statement, a spokesperson said, "Student safety is paramount at Boston Public Schools. We continue to meet daily with the Boston Public Health Commission to review the latest BPS data and make informed decisions regarding our COVID-19 protocols."

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