Schools drop mask mandate, effective immediately
Starting Thursday, March 3, Wareham Public Schools students will no longer need to wear masks on the bus or in school.
The School Committee unanimously voted to lift the mandate during a 10-minute Zoom meeting on Wednesday afternoon that was attended by 50 people.
Chair Joyce Bacchiocchi said the committee felt the removal of the mask mandate was an important enough issue to justify scheduling an extra meeting ahead of the committee’s regularly scheduled Thursday night meeting. The committee did not allow public comment on the issue during Wednesday’s meeting because it had heard related comments at a prior meeting, Bacchiocchi said.
The committee voted on Feb. 17 to extend the mandate in schools until March 14, two weeks after the state mandate was lifted, largely due to concerns about a post-February vacation spike in cases.
Superintendent Dr. Kimberly Shaver-Hood said that as of March 2 — the second day back from vacation — only one staff member was positive for covid and another staffer was in quarantine. No students are positive for covid or in quarantine as of Wednesday.
“So that certainly is a drop — a very welcome drop,” Shaver-Hood said.
The committee discussed two changes in federal policy that informed their decision. First, the federal mandate requiring students to wear a mask on the bus has been lifted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. And new guidance has designated Plymouth County to be a low-risk area for community transmission, meaning that the safety measures recommended are vaccination and testing for those with symptoms.
Committee member Geoff Swett said he felt reassured by the town’s relatively low rate of test positivity — just under 5 percent as of Feb. 24 — and reports from Southcoast Health staff that the hospital has plenty of capacity.
“I’m going to be glad to see masks gone,” said committee member Kevin Brogioli, who urged people to get vaccinated.
The only place students will be required to wear masks will be in the nurse’s office.
“I don’t believe that people will feel alienated or made to feel poorly for continuing to mask if that’s their choice, but I do believe that at this point and with the way things are going, it should be their choice,” said committee member Apryl Rossi.
Assistant Superintendent Dr. Andrea Schwamb said she recommended kids bring masks with them just in case, so if they are spending time with someone medically fragile or going to the nurse’s office, they will be prepared. The schools will have masks available for students.