Masks will no longer be required at Duxbury middle and high school, effective Monday, as of a decision made by the Duxbury School Committee.
In a school committee meeting last Wednesday, principals of each school in the district shared data on vaccination rates and testing results of students. The results from Duxbury's middle and high school both showed vaccination rates of at least 80%, setting the stage for the committee to transition the middle school and high school to "mask flexible" environments.
"'Mask flexible' means that masks will no longer be required for students or staff members as of the aforementioned dates," said Duxbury Superintendent Danielle Klingaman in a statement last week. "As always, any individual who wishes to continue to mask, including those who face higher risk from COVID-19, should be supported in that choice."
Some students were eager take the masks off. After being vaccinated and boosted, they felt safe going to class without them.
"People are just really excited. I think it's, like, finally back to normal, and everyone's excited to see people's faces again," junior Violet Jenkins said.
Others said they were not ready to ditch the mask just yet. Students in Duxbury said some classmates and staff still chose to mask up on Monday.
"Personally, I don't feel safe yet. COVID is still out there, and I just don't feel comfortable," senior Ben Leitner said.
The "mask flexible" protocol comes with a few exceptions. Students in Duxbury Middle School and Duxbury High School will still be required to wear masks when visiting the nurse's office, and for five days after a student's previous five-day isolation if exposed to COVID-19. Students will also be required to still wear masks on the bus, as per federal order.
The Duxbury Public School district was already on track to change their mask protocols in step with a memo put out by the Mass. Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) last Wednesday.
The DESE memo states that starting Feb. 28, schools in Massachusetts will no longer require masks to be worn by students and staff, citing rising vaccination rates and robust testing programs. This change in protocol affects every public school in Massachusetts.
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As the state gets ready to lift the mask mandate for schools next month, State Rep. Bill Driscoll,D-Milton, said he would feel more comfortable if benchmarks were put in place for when the restrictions would be reinstated.
"Let's set some metrics and thresholds for how we understand the virus today so that if we know it and we reach those numbers in the future, people can expect and be asked to do more for a period of time," Driscoll said.
Driscoll, chair of the House COVID-19 oversight committee, said metrics would help save school committees time discussing what to do should there be another surge.
"It takes the debate out of it. It takes the guesswork out of it, and we know know statewide measures, when they're collective and coordinated, can make a real impact," he said.