‘Progressive discipline’ will enforce mask mandate at STGRSD

Jennifer Willard (PHOTO BY MIKE LYDICK)

SOUTHWICK — Superintendent Jennifer Willard said Aug. 30 that the Southwick-Tolland-Granville Regional School District will use a “progressive discipline” system for students who show up to school without a mask.

School Committee members had been told by the district’s legal counsel before the state mask mandate was announced that the district may not legally send a student home for not wearing a mask, but the new Department of Elementary and Secondary Education guidance apparently clarified that point, and students can now be sent home.

Willard said that the progressive discipline will start by sending students back home if they arrive without a mask. If they continue to not wear a mask, the student will be made to speak with a school counselor. Should the issue persist, a meeting will be arranged with the student’s parents and the school’s administration.

Students who continue to disregard the masking rules after that will be suspended, said Willard.

Though Massachusetts now has a universal mask mandate for schools, individual school committees still needed to vote to allow the new guidance to be entered into the handbooks for each school. Though it is somewhat a formality, Willard said that the inclusion of the state’s masking policy in the handbook will provide “due notice” to parents about the new policy.

The School Committee unanimously approved the inclusion of the district mask policy in this year’s student handbook. Willard said that if a parent refuses to sign the handbook because of the mask policy, a meeting will be organized with the school’s principal where the parent will be handed the handbook personally, and that will be considered due notice of the mask policy.

The DESE guidance mandates mask wearing for students over the age of five. To simplify the situation for kindergarten and preschool teachers, the committee chose to include all students, regardless of age, in the STGRSD mask mandate.

School Committee members said that they feel confident that mask wearing won’t be an issue for students in Southwick, Tolland and Granville. School Committee member Pam Petschke said that her kids organized a seventh grade back-to-school night that took place shortly after the mask mandate was made official. She said that there were no issues with masks among the students there.

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