School committee votes to lift district mask mandate
Masks will no longer be required to be worn inside of Dartmouth’s public schools at the end of the month.
At their Feb. 14 meeting, the School Committee voted unanimously to lift the mandate that was initially placed in 2020.
“It’s time,” Committee Member Chris Oliver said. “We’re at a point [where] we can start to move forward and not look behind us.”
The committee’s decision to repeal the mandate comes following the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education announcement that it will end its requirement on Feb. 28.
While a mandate will no longer be required by the state, local school officials could still vote to keep the policy in effect.
Although no longer required, staff and students can also continue to mask up if they choose.
Mask use would remain in effect for students and staff returning from quarantine. They would be required to wear a mask for five days.
Students will also have to continue wearing their masks while riding the bus, as per federal order.
Several parents spoke out against the current mask policy ahead of the committee’s vote.
“It’s time to give our kids a sense of normalcy — they’ve earned it,” said Lynne Turner, who is currently running for a seat on the committee.
Fellow candidate Adam Moreira agreed, saying that wearing a mask “is very harmful to kids.”
While in favor of lifting the policy, Committee Chair Dr. Shannon Jenkins encouraged residents to get vaccinated if they haven’t in order to decrease the likelihood of another large Covid-19 surge that could result in the reimplementation of the mandate.
“We’re not out of the pandemic yet,” she said. “This is no guarantee that masks will not be needed again.”