On August 24th, the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) approved the request of Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Commissioner Jeff Riley to grant him the authority to issue a state-wide indoor mask mandate for all staff, students and visitors in all K-12 schools in Massachusetts. I expect that the Commissioner will issue this mandate in the next few days, and that the mandate will be accompanied with instructions for schools to implement it. When the Commissioner issues this mandate, all schools in Massachusetts, including Masconomet, will be required to follow it. The BESE vote also granted the Commissioner the authority to remove the mandate for middle and high schools that have reached 80% vaccination rate for staff and students as soon as October 1st. I will be sharing more information around expectations for wearing masks in our schools as soon as we receive more guidance from DESE.
As part of its COVID mitigation plan, DESE has also announced that it will continue and expand on its COVID testing programs for this year. For the 2021-2022 school year, Masconomet has applied for and been accepted into two of these state testing programs: “Symptomatic Testing” and “Test and Stay.” In “Symptomatic Testing,” students or staff who develop COVID-related symptoms while in school will be given a Binax-NOW rapid antigen test to determine whether they may safely remain on site or need further diagnostic testing to confirm if they have COVID. In “Test and Stay,” unvaccinated students and staff who are identified as close contacts of a COVID-positive individual and are not exhibiting COVID symptoms will be tested in school for up to seven days after exposure using the Binax-NOW rapid antigen test. These students and staff will be allowed to continue to attend school as long as they test negative and do not exhibit COVID symptoms. I will be forwarding more details about these programs, including the forms for collecting consent to participate, as we receive it from DESE. For more information on the DESE’s COVID testing programs please go to https://www.doe.mass.edu/covid19/testing/
Finally, I cannot emphasize more the importance of getting your child vaccinated against COVID-19. Being vaccinated will provide our students with the fewest number of COVID-related restrictions in school. Vaccinated students who remain asymptomatic are exempt from quarantining or testing if they are identified as close contacts of a COVID-positive individual. Reaching an 80% vaccination rate for students and staff will also allow us to relax the mask requirement as soon as October 1st. The most recent Update from the Boxford Board of Health shows that we’re very close to meeting this 80% target at both Masconomet High School and Masconomet Middle School, but still have some way to go. “As of August 17, in Boxford, 77% ages 12 to 15 are fully vaccinated and 92% of ages 16-19, In Topsfield, 71% of 12 to 15 and 96% of 16 to 19 years. In Middleton, 56% of 12-15 years and 72% of 16-19 years.” Vaccinations for anyone age 12 and over are free and are readily available. To book an appointment, please go to https://vaxfinder.mass.gov/
I’m looking forward to the return of all students to Masconomet on September 8th!