SOUTHWICK- Southwick-Tolland-Granville Regional School District (STGRSD) Superintendent Jennifer Willard said to the Select Board Aug. 24 that the vaccination rate for eligible persons in Southwick schools is barely half of what would be needed to end the mask mandate on Oct. 1.
Willard was speaking to the Select Board about CARES Act funding for the school district when she said that the vaccination rate for students and staff grades 7-12 is, at most, 40 percent, despite most of those students being eligible.
“We don’t have a real high vaccination rate among our students,” said Willard
Earlier in the day Aug. 24, the Board of Education voted 9-1 to grant Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley the authority to mandate masks for all public schools in Massachusetts, effectively ending the debate that had been taking place in School Committees and boards across Massachusetts, including in the STGRSD.
Riley’s statewide mandate will allow for individual middle and high schools to drop the mandate if they can achieve a vaccination rate of 80 percent of all eligible persons in the school. In that case, the mandate would be dropped for vaccinated persons only.
Willard said Aug. 24 that she was awaiting new official guidance from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) before notifying families of how the mandate will impact the STGRSD.
“This morning the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education granted Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley the authority to mandate masks for all public K-12 students, educators, and staff through October 1 to ensure schools fully reopen safely and to provide time for more students and educators to get vaccinated,” said Willard in a letter to parents, “As a result of the Board’s action, we anticipate the Commissioner will release new guidance this week for all Massachusetts public school districts for the 21/22 school year.”