New Mask Guidelines for the Mount Greylock Regional School District

Photo+courtesy+of+Emma+Sandstrom

Photo courtesy of Emma Sandstrom

Lucy McWeeny

Going into effect Monday, March 14th, masks will no longer be required at all three schools within the Mount Greylock School District. Anyone inside these schools, including students, teachers, staff, and visitors will not be required to wear a mask, although they are allowed to continue doing so if they so choose to. This decision is a step away from the mask requirement in place that has lasted since the return to school in Fall 2020.

Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker removed the mask requirements for public schools starting on February 28th. After this statewide decision, the Mount Greylock School District began looking into removing the mask requirements for its schools, headed by superintendent Jake McCandless.

After the state lifted this mask mandate, McCandless said, “We really just needed to set a date that made sense.” The district decided to collect data from the next two weeks of pool testing, the second week coming back with two positive cases from all three schools. McCandless added, “our numbers indicate that we’re down to almost zero so it was time.”

As of right now, the testing and isolation protocols currently in place will continue throughout the school year. If a student tests positive for COVID they are required to isolate for five days and can return to school on the sixth day. For the next five days after return, the student is required to wear a mask in school.

The district has gradually been decreasing the amount of measures put in place to prevent the spread of COVID. Mount Greylock principal Jacob Schutz said, “We started with [taking away] measures like the organization of classrooms, and then stopped requiring masks for athletes and performers.” 

Although this most recent step removes the mask requirement, lunches are currently being kept the same. Rows of tables and chairs are set up three feet apart and facing in the same direction. Sophomore Christy Rech, while excited for the removal of masks, said, “since we don’t have to wear masks, the cafeteria should go back to its usual set up with the bigger tables.”

McCandless said the district will look at the data from the pool testing this week, and “if that pool testing goes well we will be looking at lunch returning to normal maybe as early as a week from Monday [March 21st].

While the district is preparing for this step away from mask requirements, there is always the possibility the schools may have to start requiring masks once again. For this to happen, McCandless said, “I think we would need to see pretty significant evidence that there was an uptick in the community or the very real potential for an uptick in schools.”

He added that “If the Williamstown Health Department, the Lanesborough health department, or the governor suggested that we’re seeing an uptick in cases and it’s time to go back to masks, at that point we would go back to masks.”

There is some concern about students who are continuing to wear masks being faced with peer pressure to stop doing so. To prevent this, Schutz said, “I think teachers modeling how it’s okay to have a mask is going to be one of the best approaches to foster that supportive and inclusive environment.”

English teacher Blair Dils said, “ I hope students feel comfortable taking them [masks] off or keeping them on.” He added, “I am curious if we’ll see other diseases spike. But I think we’ll all benefit from seeing our entire faces.”

Many students have mixed feelings toward the removal of mask requirements, often depending on whether a person has already had COVID or not. Sophomore Lex Anagnos said, “I’m looking forward to school feeling more and more normal, though there’s still an underlying fear of getting sick.”

While concerns about COVID are still prevalent, many are excited to get back to a more normal classroom setting. Junior Ainsley Abel said, “After two years I am looking forward to seeing everyone’s faces who also choose to take off the mask.”

“Personally I feel like I’m going to wait and see what happens with COVID numbers before I remove my mask,” said Sophomore Florentina Klingenberg.

Math teacher Lucas Polidoro said, “I think I’m going to do a sort of hybrid mask wearing myself. But I’m fine with kids who want to wear masks until June or if people want to take them off Monday.”

With this hopeful entrance into a new set of mask protocols at school, McCandless said, “We’re very thankful for the seriousness with which people stuck with the mask requirement and I think it just says a lot about our school community and particularly about our student community.”