Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice says:
As the week comes to a close, I would like to share the latest update on the Governor’s Executive Order mandating universal masking in schools. There are a number of steps involved, and I will outline below in detail.
The Governor’s Recommendation and the CT Legislative Process
The statewide mask mandate for schools in Connecticut is set to expire at midnight on February 15. On February 7 Governor Lamont held a press conference, and with the support of the state Department of Public Health, he recommended that the statewide mask mandate in Connecticut schools extend to February 28. Under the Governor’s recommended proposal, local school districts would have the authority to make decisions about mask requirements in schools.
Yesterday, the state House of Representatives voted to extend the current school mask requirements until February 28, after which local communities will determine their own school masking requirements.
The Senate is scheduled to act on this legislation on February 14. It is expected they will follow suit. and that the current state mandate requiring masks in schools will expire on February 28.
With these decisions and actions at the state level, I would like to make our school community aware that public transportation, i.e. school buses, continues to be governed by federal requirements for universal masking and the actions of the Governor and legislature do not change federal requirements. Unless there is action at the federal level, masks will continue to be required on our buses.
It is still uncertain at this time what the rules and public health guidance will be for masking in local school districts when the governor’s emergency powers expire and the State Senate takes final action. Therefore, at this time, it would be premature for us to make a final determination regarding masking in our schools. Yet all signs appear to indicate that this state universal masking requirement will sunset on February 28.
Next Steps – Superintendent’s Recommendation to End the Mask Mandate
In the coming days, as these final pieces of information are provided at the state level, I will continue to consult with our local health district and medical advisor. I intend to make a recommendation to the Board of Education at their anticipated special meeting on Wednesday February 16 to end the mask mandate in the Westport Public Schools when permitted at the state level, perhaps as early as February 28.
The governor’s recommendation, supported by the Department of Public Health, indicates that universal masking is not a necessary public health intervention at this point in time. Vaccination rates in our community, even across our student population, are among the highest in the state. In addition, as a result of the widespread infection rate of the Omicron variant, many have also developed natural immunity.
Daily infection rates have dropped precipitously over the past few weeks as noted by our daily reports. Notably, our daily case rates are reported for the entire school community population, which is over 5,000 students, and approximately 1,000 employees. We have averaged just over 5 new daily cases out of over 6,000 individuals this week. Furthermore, our recent weekly serial testing of 539 students surfaced only 2 positive cases on Monday.
All of these factors influence my final recommendation to the Board of Education to end the mask mandate in our schools.
However, there are many considerations we must take into account with any elimination of the universal masking mandate. It is important to note as the pandemic continues to evolve, it will be necessary to maintain mitigating measures. Ventilation, social distancing, hand hygiene, weekly testing, and self-isolation when testing positive, all continue to be effective means in controlling virus spread. We will continue to implement these measures to the extent possible.
Consideration for Others
Along with many issues in the modern world, the pandemic, vaccines, and masking, have become polarizing topics. It is not lost on me that while many rightfully feel ready to move forward, there are those in our community who experienced traumatic hardships and have lost loved ones during these past two years. It is our responsibility to be sensitive to those students we serve who have been most significantly affected by the pandemic.
On Thursday I met with the district administrative team, all principals, assistant principals and coordinators. We discussed the importance of supporting each and every one of our students as we approach the next phase of the pandemic. At some point, perhaps as soon as February 28, families will make decisions for their children with regards to masking. When that happens, we are committed to supporting the personal choice of each individual student and staff member, and to protecting everyone in our school community from unwelcome comments and behaviors. To that end, we will be providing resources and talking points next week as a support.
We will continue to carefully monitor case rates and attendance and evaluate any new guidance issued by the Connecticut Department of Public Health. Adjustments to our approach will be made as necessary.
Based on the previous thread on the subject, the comments today should be interesting. I’ve got my popcorn ready.
Two quick interjections…
*If there are on average more than 5 additional cases of coronavirus infection every day within a 6,000 strong school community which is totally and comprehensively masked, how many will there be when masks come off?
*The national conversation continues to revolve around the questions, “What level of risk am I willing to tolerate”, and, “What level of risk am I willing to expose my children to?”
These questions orient around a mistaken premise. Unless I am wearing full protective PPE — as, say, hospital workers do — my mask does not protect me. I wear a mask to protect my community, and the people who I have daily exposure to.
Perhaps the following limerick may shed some light on the situation…
I’LL BE SURE TO WEAR MY MASK.
No, I’m not a desperado
Nor am I incommunicado
Neither scared to show bravado,
And yes, I do Love avocado.
While perusing paintings at the Prado
Prospecting Gold in Eldorado
Or at a show of the Mikado,
I’ll be sure to wear my mask!
©Jonathan Prager 2020. All Rights Reserved.
Dans post generally get quite a bit of engagement.. seems most are in agreement.. Let’s see those smiles and move forward!
Knowing from personal experience the extreme difficulties of keeping an immunocompromised child safe, I am not “in agreement” with the decision to end masking. What I am is defeated.
In my years of environmental advocacy, I learned that if one’s fellow humans prioritize their personal wishes over the safety of others (and themselves), there’s very little I can do but take care of myself and my family as best I can. This is the world we live in. While I’m not naive enough to think my individual actions make much of a dent in systemic ills, at least I can sleep at night.
Did I miss something? The #’s may be lower but lets not forget that we are not counting any of the home tests. Could we poll the families and staff first? Are we putting back the remote schooling option? I am not in the schools anymore as a parent or as a teacher but I would be very leery of this hasty unmasking.
Why are mask choice people balked at being insensitive and/or entitled? Based on CURRENT data, how is that so?
I’m all for mask choice – I’m also pro choice in general. Seems like many have not bothered to see these parallels.
When someone “chooses” not to wear a mask anyone in the room is directly affected. We have no choice but to share the air in a closed space like a classroom, theatre or store. Pro choice or Pro life should only concern the people who will need to raise and support that child for the rest of their lives. Not even close to the same.
Thank you, Bobbi, for pointing to this discernment which many seem to miss. My wearing a mask determines the safety of those sharing air with me. It’s a matter of public health, not personal liberty.
Likewise, “Pro life” is a misnomer. What many miss here is that the mother’s wellbeing and future stand as imperative factors in the decision. Some pregnancies endanger the mother’s life, and so refusing “choice” may be “Pro death”, or at least, anti-health.
After witnessing last nights Super Bowl I think we can all agree there is no longer an emergency and our youngest learners/children should be free to breathe again! If you still require protection because of underlying issues (as we always did in pre-pandemic era) then do what you must. The fact that I had to mask my 3 year old and elementary school children after 80k fans including celebrities politicians etc is disgraceful. One way masking works should someone need it! Wake up!
How can we ask our societal “betters” to behave in the same way they expect us to behave? How would we be able to see they are above us if that were the case? For my kids: masks and plexiglass. For our politicians and celebrities: freedom.