An effort by some parents who are opposed to the use of face masks at school seemed to wane when the Board of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education made a surprise move.
The DESE Board members voted on August 24 to authorize Commissioner Jeff Riley to declare a mask mandate for public school students in the commonwealth. The measure will be re-evaluated on October 1.
That led to a unanimous vote taken by Westford School Committee members on August 24 to support the mask mandate.
Now in its second year of infecting and taking the lives of people throughout the world, the highly contagious virus that has already killed thousands, COVID – 19, is coming back even stronger in the form of the variant delta virus. But for some parents, concerns for their children’s ability to breath and the social challenges of wearing a mask, outweigh the benefits.
Resident Wendy Welsh voiced opposition as did Melissa Mackey. “I think it would be a simplification to say masking is completely harmless,” Mackey said. “I think we have a responsibility to ask what is the danger of long-term mask wearing to our kids.”
The opponents were up against the seven- member School Committee, 10-member Board of the DESE, and the five-member Board of Health, with all three boards voting in favor of mandated mask-wearing for all but the pre-K students. The town’s youngest students will be given a recommendation that they wear a mask when inside the pre-school building.
Only a day earlier, the Board of Health set a policy requiring anyone entering a town-owned building to wear a mask. Health Director Jeff Stephens attended the joint meeting, along with Board of Health members.