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Group protesting reinstated mask mandate in Northampton schools

Group protesting reinstated mask mandate in Northampton schools
Updated: May. 12, 2022 at 2:15 PM EDT
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NORTHAMPTON, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - Northampton Public Schools has temporarily reinstated its mask mandate for students and staff after COVID-19 cases more than doubled in the district last week. Now, a group of parents is protesting the district’s decision.

“They should go back to essentially a mask recommendation or mask optional policy,” said Northampton parent Patrick Boughan, co-found of Mask Choice Pioneer Valley.

Northampton officials announced this week masks are required in classrooms once again for students and staff from May 10 to May 20 after the district saw a significant rise in COVID-19 cases, but some parents are not happy with the decision.

“With all of these measures we have, including vaccines and boosters, we are in a different world than we were in in 2020 when we reached for these mask mandates,” Boughan added.

Boughan is a member of a volunteer group that was formed when Northampton was one of the last Massachusetts school districts to adopt a mask optional policy less than two months ago. Now, the group is speaking out again, writing a letter to the superintendent and school committee calling the reinstatement “abrupt and unnecessary.”

“At this point, the state is not recommending a mandate, neither is Mass. DPH or the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education as they did in the past year or two and the CDC only recommends individual masking, not community masking,” Boughan explained.

Cases in Northampton Public Schools jumped from 64 cases to 139 cases in a three-day period last week.

We reached out to Northampton Health Department Director Merridith O’Leary. She told us a downward trend in cases needs to be seen in the schools for the mandate to be lifted. She also said the district’s main goal is to curb in school transmission and keep the schools open.

However, Boughan told Western Mass News other districts are switching to recommending masks, rather than requiring them.

“Leverett and Amherst, they are bringing back masking as a recommendation and not a mandate…We are putting a lot on our children in Northhampton by bringing masking back for this period of time,” Boughan noted.

He said they will continue to fight.

“So far, we sent this letter and we have not gotten a response back from the district yet. We might have a protest or attend the school committee meeting or get involved in legal action if the district does not respond soon,” Boughan added.

Masks will be required in classrooms through next Friday. After that, the advisory committee will reassess COVID-19 cases and decide whether to extend or drop the mandate.