Walpole Public Schools Lift Mask Mandate

On Feb. 11, the Walpole School Board unanimously voted to repeal the mask mandate at all the public schools. Walpole High School staff and students were no longer required to wear masks starting Feb. 14, due to reaching the required percentage of vaccinated individuals – 80%. This is a huge step, as it has been almost two years since Walpole Schools closed their doors due to the pandemic. 

So far, there have not been any issues. There has not been an increase in COVID-19 cases, even with many people going on vacation over February break. The rest of the Walpole Public Schools were permitted to remove masks starting Feb. 28, after school break. 

“The children arrived at school on Monday, as if they had the weight of the world lifted off of them. Seeing their smiles and their whole faces was an amazing gift,” Boyden Elementary School teacher Suzanne Galvin said. “We had become accustomed to seeing only each other’s eyes, so seeing each other’s smiles and expressions has been such a wonderful experience. Who could have imagined that something we took for granted two years ago, looking at each other’s faces and smiling at each other, would mean so much to us today. I am so grateful that we can finish the year together without masks!” 

Galvin’s third grade students have a wide range of opinions on the masks; most did not seem to mind wearing them, but are still glad to now make their own decision.

“Wearing a mask made me feel safe that I was not going to get sick; I thought the schools were making the right decision. But also, after a little while, I started to get sick of them, and I could not wait till this was all over!,” one thoughtful Boyden student said.

It is hard to imagine that students have gone through three school years with the pandemic, but it is the unfortunate reality.

“I feel like I am finally free to live a normal life and breathe more fresh air instead of the warm air in my mask. I have been dealing with Covid-19 since first grade and I think I am making the best decision for me by ripping that mask right off my face!,” this enthusiastic third-grader said.

The children have enjoyed getting to see each other’s faces; in a way, it is like they are meeting each other for the first time!
“Without wearing a mask it has been easier because I can see my friend’s faces and I can hear my teacher better,” another one of Galvin’s students said.

When the schools first reopened in September of 2020, after the summer and those few months of fully remote learning, it seemed there was a mutual mixed feeling of weariness and relief, felt throughout all students, parents and teachers. So many people had such big concerns for the younger students, especially the ones in elementary school, having to wear the masks, and how it was going to impact them.

“Masks were [never] an issue for my third graders, because we were so happy to be back together, with our whole class, in our classroom,” Galvin said. “The worries have been high around how the masks may affect them socially and academically, so hearing this from someone who has seen it first hand is such a relief.”

It is great for students to be able to go to school, without a mask on and still feel safe. Hopefully this is a step forward, and not backwards.