High schoolers in Hopkinton will be the first in Massachusetts to go to class without a mask in an experimental trial run next month.
The Hopkinton School Committee voted 3-2 Thursday night to approve the three-week trial, which allows fully vaccinated high schoolers the option to unmask while in school from Nov. 1 through Nov. 19.
During the two hour meeting, some committee members argued that the move is premature, while others said that it's long overdue.
"I feel like we've, you know, come down off of heartbreak hill and we think we're done, but we still have that last little bit," committee member Amanda Fargiano said. "I sort of felt that way."
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"I think families will do what they need to, but given where we are, we're not going to be at a better time than now to at least do a three-week -- I would be advocating for more but I sense the consensus of the board is different," committee member Joe Markey said. "I would be advocating to just lift it and leave it like that."
More then 95% of the school's population is vaccinated. Hopkinton is one of two school districts in Massachusetts that have demonstrated at least 80% of students and staff have been vaccinated, which is the required threshold set by the state to allow mask mandates exemptions.
The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education granted a request to lift the mask mandate at Hopkinton High School after the district submitted the necessary documentation last week. Hopkinton is the first school in the state that has been granted permission to lift the indoor mandate.
The opt-out process became available for Massachusetts schools last Friday. As of Monday, nine schools had requested to lift the mask mandate -- five high schools, one middle school with seventh and eighth grades, and three approved special education schools primarily serving grades nine through 12.
Meanwhile, the state's mask mandate expires on Nov. 1. Gov. Charlie Baker is not yet saying whether Massachusetts will again extend the order.
In August, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education authorized Commissioner Jeff Riley to require masks for students age 5 and up and school staff through at least Oct. 1, and Riley on Sept. 27 extended the requirement another month.
On Tuesday, Riley said to expect a decision "by early next week" on whether masks will be required after Nov. 1.