The first day of school for thousands of students in Massachusetts has already come and gone as school districts across the state prepare for another academic year to get underway while co-existing with COVID-19. As children in Worcester, Lawrence, Fitchburg, and several other districts headed back to the classroom Monday, there are a number of changes in COVID-19 protocols in schools that parents may want to take note of.
There is no longer a statewide mask mandate or testing requirement for schools, as this ended in the spring. Additionally, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education informed schools that the state will no longer supply self-tests for COVID surveillance, or even symptomatic COVID testing services to districts beginning this fall.
“That’s good too because I can actually like breathe, instead of just having the mask on for the whole day,” Burncoat High School sophomore Harlem Nicholson said. His mother and Worcester Arts Magnet School teacher Shakitha Nicholson said she was apprehensive about the lack of mask enforcement.
“I’m a little nervous, but it’s okay,” she said. “I’m a teacher so I understand, I’m excited to be back in school but it is kind of scary, you know, without the mask.”
Schools can implement their own testing programs, but must limit the program to symptomatic rapid testing only. Also this year, if a student or staff member is exposed to coronavirus, as long as they are asymptomatic, they can continue attending, regardless of vaccination status.
School-wide remote learning days will not be allowed, but schools can livestream classes to individual students during their isolation period to reduce absences. The state said any school closures due to COVID-19 will be treated like snow days and added to the end of the school year.
Some students and parents in Worcester were still choosing to mask up as the new school year started.
“I think kids should still have masks on, because I mean I work in the healthcare field, and I feel like COVID is still there,” Worcester parent Nancy Mantey said.
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