WPS Extends Mask Mandate Until November


(Photo/ Sophia Brownsword)

In August 2021, Massachusetts education officials announced that public school students going back to school would be wearing masks until at least Oct. 1. If a school’s vaccinated population had reached 80% by then, they would have the option to lift the mask mandate. As of Sept. 29, this mandate was extended until Nov. 1. However, if schools have reached 80% of vaccinated students after Oct. 1, schools are now able to send an attestation form in the Mass. Department of Elementary and Secondary Education as early as Oct. 15. This attestation form would then hopefully be approved by the department, and vaccinated staff, as well as students, would be permitted to take off their masks. 

Mass. state school officials have also come out saying that, ultimately, schools and districts have the choice to decide whether or not they want students to go unmasked. As the vaccination rates around the state and even the nation have gone up, COVID-19 cases and deaths have gone down significantly. Massachusetts state government as well as the federal government ideally want a large majority of the population vaccinated in order for students to attend schools without their masks.

“For young people, getting vaccinated right away is the best way back to the things they love,” the White House said in August of 2021, before the start of the new school year. 

As of the week of Sept. 12, Walpole High School reached 69.7% of vaccinated students. On Aug. 30 and Sept. 20, Walpole High held mobile vaccine clinics in the media center, which helped boost percentages of vaccinated students. As of Sept. 29, the number has gone up to 72.5%. As of Sept. 25, 5.5% of students had received one dosage of the vaccine, and if they were to get the second dosage the total vaccination rate would reach 78%. 

“However, a high percentage of this population are overdue for their second vaccination,” Superintendent Dr. Bridget Gough said at the school committee meeting on Sept. 30. 

The percentage of vaccinated students at Walpole High only accounts for students that are fully vaccinated, meaning they have received both shots. Students who only have one shot are not considered in this percentage. 

If WHS reaches the 80% mark, town administration has not yet come to the decision about what guidelines will be for masks inside of the school, and what the exact protocol will be. There will be another school committee meeting on Oct. 28, before the Nov. 1 guideline provided by the state, where they will further discuss the issue. 

Going forward, the more people that get vaccinated in not only Walpole High, but the entire district, will move Walpole closer towards the goal of going mask-free. As COVID-19 cases decline with the rate of vaccination going up, masks should hopefully no longer be necessary for students to stay safe at school, as long as the vaccinated population has reached 80%.