School Masks: Barnstable Revises Policy; Falmouth Waiting for State Guidance
Masks will be mandatory in the Barnstable public schools this fall — but with changes from last year.
School officials in Barnstable and Falmouth took votes on the mask issue last night.
The Barnstable School Committee voted 4-1 to keep, but update, the policy in light of state Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley’s plans to mandate masks until Oct. 1.
The revised version deletes a requirement for masks outdoors and eliminates references to physical distancing.
Member Joe Nystrom cast the only opposing vote. He said tying mask requirements to the vaccination rate, as Riley has proposed, pressures people to get vaccinated.
“There seems to be no endgame here except for an incentive for people to get vaccinated,” he said. “And I don't think that masks should be used as a carrot.”
Member Kathleen Bent said she voted “yes” only to align with the state.
Several Barnstable parents spoke for and against a mask mandate.
Roland Gonzalez said he sees problems with children wearing masks in school.
“I know my youngest has trouble breathing,” he said. “She's had headaches every single day with the mask.”
Parent Dean Douglas said masks will help allow children to go to school in-person.
“People are missing the point,” he said. “The point of wearing a mask is not so that we can have a good time; it's to be preventative, so that we don't either contract COVID ourselves or transmit it to others.”
Staying in-person is critical, said School Committee member Barbara Dunn.
She and other members said they want to be able to re-evaluate the mask policy as conditions change.
Earlier yesterday, the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted to give Riley the authority to implement a mask mandate for all students and staff in K-12 public schools until Oct. 1.
In light of the Board of Education vote, the Falmouth School Committee voted unanimously to postpone further discussion of school masks, pending guidance from the state.
Superintendent Lori Duerr said students will be able to spend some time outside, where masks are not required.
“And we are going to try to have as many outdoor breaks, outdoor learning opportunities, and a rotation of lunch opportunities for students outdoors,” she said.
The Falmouth public schools will have no social distancing protocols, except when students eat lunch indoors, she said. For that, students will have to be three feet apart.
Falmouth School Committee member Andrea Thorrold said she’s grateful for all the letters of comment submitted by Falmouth residents, noting “the sheer number of people who have family members who are immunocompromised or other things that are going on in their lives.”
“And I think we learn, through those emails, how much complexity there is,” she said.
Chairwoman Natalie Kannellopoulos said letters from the Falmouth public favored a mask mandate by a ratio of about three to one.