LENOX — The School Committee has voted unanimously to adopt Gov, Charlie Baker’s new guidance eliminating mask-wearing for all students when outdoors, even if social distancing cannot be maintained.
The relaxed guidelines that took effect Tuesday include recess, physical ed, youth sports and outdoor learning environments, interim schools Superintendent William Cameron said. For now, students and adults must continue to wear masks indoors.
Adults on school grounds must continue to wear masks outdoors if distancing cannot be maintained.
Until Baker’s recommendations were released on Monday, health and safety rules required students to be masked at all times when on school property.
Beginning on Tuesday, the state no longer requires masks at K-12 schools for outdoor activities, including recess, one of several changes to COVID-19 restrictions that Gov. Charlie Baker announced this week. Officials in other districts have adopted the state’s guidance, or planned to make decisions in the coming days.
Pittsfield: School Committee Chairwoman Katherine Yon said the committee will hold an emergency meeting Friday to discuss bringing its mask policy in line with the state’s.
Eric Lamoureaux, the district’s health and safety coordinator, said district officials are fielding inquiries from frustrated parents inquiring why their children were still being required to wear masks outside.
Provided the committee amends the policy Friday to fall in line with the state, Lamoureaux said compulsory mask-wearing outdoors on school grounds could be a thing of the past by Monday.
“I think they’ll be excited about it,” he said of the students.
North Adams: Superintendent Barbara Malkas said the district may try to hold off until May 29, which would coincide with the state mandate for reopening. She noted many students are receiving their vaccinations this week.
And she expects to learn more about the new guidelines during a meeting Wednesday with state education officials.
Berkshire Hills: Superintendent Peter Dillon said the schools are adopting the eased pandemic restrictions by no longer requiring students to be masked outdoors.
“We continue to follow the rest of our protocols for indoors, including masks, social distancing, hand washing and sanitizing,” he pointed out. COVID pool testing is also continuing.
Dillon said additional guidance will be monitored, including Tuesday’s announcement by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association that it has dropped its requirement that high school athletes competing in spring sports outdoors must wear a mask/facial covering, effective immediately. The action followed unanimous approval by the MIAA’s Sports Medicine Committee. Dillon plans to discuss the new guidelines with the Berkshire Hills School Committee on Thursday. The district serves students from Great Barrington, Stockbridge and West Stockbridge. Dillon is also superintendent of Richmond Consolidated School under a shared services agreement.
In Lenox, the School Committee also voted 7-0 to authorize the administration to further modify COVID-related regulations until the end of the school year to conform with further updates from the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Since full-time, in-person instruction resumed at Lenox Memorial Middle and High School on April 27, out of 452 enrolled students at Lenox Middle and High School, 93 chose to remain in fully remote learning, Cameron said. At Morris Elementary School, where full-time, in-building instruction resumed on April 5, 21 of the 302 students continue in remote education at home. Three teachers in the district continue teaching remotely with medical documentation detailing their need not to return to in-building work at this time, Cameron reported.
“So far, things have gone well,” he said, with the only hurdle involving school lunch logistics caused by distancing requirements.
“Many students have been through a topsy-turvy year, this has been a disruptive situation,” Cameron noted. “We owe a debt to the parents who have worked with us to ensure that this is an orderly transition back to much more normal circumstances.”
He also singled out the custodial staff “who have done a great job trying to keep everyone safe and everything clean and orderly, and of course the faculty and administration. Everything has gone quite well, I’m very pleased.”