Area schools are prepared for the new mask mandate that goes into effect Wednesday.
In the Bristol School District, a mask mandate will remain in place for the rest of the school year.
“We will continue to proactively practice mitigation strategies, including all students and staff wearing masks, for the remainder of the school year,” said Dr. Catherine Carbone, superintendent of schools. “This plan is in accordance with guidance from the Connecticut Department of Public Health, the Connecticut State Department of Education and the Governor's Office."
Jacqui Maddy, nursing director for the New Britain School District, said they will still follow guidelines in accordance with the CDC and the state.
“We will still be wearing masks inside the school buildings; that’s not going to change. When the kids are outside and playing, then they won’t need to wear a mask. But when they’re sitting as a group or in a classroom, they still have to wear a mask,” said Maddy, noting while the CDC has brought down guidelines for social distancing to three feet, contact tracing is still six feet.
Maddy said it’s important to continue with mitigating strategies such as social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing even when everything is starting to reopen.
“That can all keep illness down. We’ve had almost zero cases of the flu this year when we usually see hundreds, so it does work,” Maddy said.
The state is expected to provide additional guidelines going into the summer and the 2021-22 school year. For New Britain Superintendent Nancy Sarra, she said the district will remain masked as a precaution.
“There’s a level of comfort of remaining masked until at least the end of the school year because not everyone has been vaccinated,” she said. “We’ve done a good job with that so far so we want to maintain what works.”
With hopes the majority of students will be vaccinated in the fall, Sarra said the district will most likely continue all mitigation strategies through the summer.
“I think most of us are erring on the side of safety and caution and we will continue to do that until more state guidelines come out,” she said.
Shane Lockwood, director of health for the Plainville-Southington Regional Health District, confirmed the department has spoken with both town managers and superintendents.
“Both will be following the newest guidelines for the CDC and the state,” Lockwood said. “These guidelines state that if you are fully vaccinated you no longer have to wear a mask indoors but if you are unvaccinated you have to wear a mask indoors. There is no mask requirement outdoors. It is all based on the state’s recommendations. Masks are still required, however, in certain settings and one on that list is schools.”
Newington Superintendent of Schools Dr. Maureen Brummett told the Herald Newington Public Schools are following the rules just as they are issued.
"For the rest of this school year, we have been directed by the SDE/DPH to continue wearing masks in school regardless of vaccination status," Brummett said. "We are following those guidelines."
Like last year, school officials anticipate the state will continue issuing guidance throughout the summer, ahead of the 2021-22 school year.
"It remains unclear as to what the fall may bring," Brummett added. "I suspect we won't get guidance in that regard until August."
Brian Benigni, Berlin superintendent, said the town’s school district will follow the guidelines that are stated. That means masks will remain in place for the time being.
“We’ve followed all the CDC guidelines so far during the pandemic, so we’re going to stick with the same ones,” he said. “Masks will be worn inside the school when you are not socially distance. Outside of the school with masks we follow CIAC rules for all sporting events. I know the governor said a lot of things are going to change, but we’re not taking those extreme measures right away. When the kids are socially distanced the masks won’t be necessary, but in the schools, we know that we’re not socially distanced at all times, so we’re not able to do that. We’re going to relax things a little, but we’re not going make it wide open right away. I think in time we’ll gradually move there.”
Ciara Hooks, Catherine Shen and Erica Drzewiecki contributed to this story.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org