Plans for another pandemic-era school year in the works: ‘Let the chaos begin’

Aug 6, 2021

Wareham Public School administrators have opted to wait until closer to the beginning of the school year — on Aug. 30 — to make decisions about various covid-19 safety protocols, including whether or not students and staff will be required to wear masks. 

Superintendent Dr. Kimberly Shaver-Hood said the School Committee would discuss masking and “any other restrictions” during the committee’s upcoming Aug. 26 meeting, which will be held at the Wareham Middle School. 

The most recent guidance from the state, released on July 30, says that the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Department of Public Health “strongly recommend” requiring unvaccinated students, staff and visitors to wear masks when indoors at school.

Because no covid-19 vaccine is currently available for students under age 12, DESE recommends “that all students in kindergarten through grade 6 wear masks when indoors.”

“Basically, the governor said 351 towns in Massachusetts can do their thing,” School Committee member Geoff Swett said. “He’s only ‘strongly recommending,’ he’s not mandating anything — so let the chaos begin.”

Swett said he thought it was important to get “a good sense” of how the principals at each school feel about the recommended mask mandate.

“It’s one thing for the School Committee to [...] approve a policy,” he said. “It’s another thing for us to know that the policy that we approve is going to be executable.” 

He also said that differentiating between vaccinated and unvaccinated staff and students would create “a whole can of worms.” 

During an Aug. 5 School Committee meeting, Shaver-Hood said she sent a survey out to staff members to get their input and already had 125 answers. She also said the district is considering sending out a survey to families but wanted to get “a little bit closer and see if there’s any more guidance” before sending anything out.

Committee chair Joyce Bacchiocchi said she’d invited the Board of Health to weigh-in on the subject ahead of the next meeting, and noted that the committee had pushed back its meeting date. 

“The meeting on our original calendar is scheduled for Aug. 19, but one of the reasons that we changed it to Aug. 26 is so that we’re meeting as close to the beginning of the school as possible — so we’re talking about the latest guidance,”  Bacchiocchi said. “We all know that it’s going to change right up until the last minute.”

The School Committee meeting will be held Aug. 26 at Wareham Middle School. 

“We’re excited about opening our school year,” Shaver-Hood said. “We’re happy to have everyone back. We know it’s going to look a little bit different than it has, but we’re just grateful to be at this point. And we still want to keep everyone safe and healthy so there will be protocols put into place.”