DESE extends mask mandate

Oct 27, 2021

As the Old Rochester Regional High School’s vaccination rate closes in on 80%, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has once again extended its mask mandate for schools.

The original mask mandate for this year, issued Aug. 25, had previously been extended from Oct. 1 to Nov. 1.

Under the state’s newly extended mask mandate, all K-12 students, educators and staff are required to wear a mask while in schools through at least Jan. 15.

“It is critical that we continue to follow safety and health safeguards to prevent the spread of the virus in our schools,” Superintendent Mike Nelson said at an Oct. 26 Mattapoisett School Committee meeting. “And we’re doing everything we can to align to best practice.”

The 80% vaccination threshold protocol, which would have gone into effect Oct. 15, will now be delayed until Jan. 15. Under this protocol, if a school demonstrates a vaccination rate of 80% or more of all students and staff, then vaccinated individuals in that school would no longer be subject to the mask requirement. In alignment with state guidance, unvaccinated students and staff would be required to continue wearing masks.

Old Rochester district and school administrators will work with their respective school committees to determine whether this threshold is met and will share updates with the school as they become available.

According to DESE, masks may be removed indoors or other mitigation strategies may be put into place when necessary for students to participate in elective classes, such as band. Additionally, masks are required for any sports-related activity for student-athletes and coaches when indoors, in alignment with guidance provided by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association.

Parents and guardians should note that separate from DESE’s mask mandate, under the Department of Public Health’s mask advisory, students riding any district bus or visiting any of the district’s health offices must continue to wear masks at all times while in these settings.