The Everett School Committee voted 5-2 at Monday night’s meeting to make the mask mandate for students and faculty optional starting immediately. The Everett district now will be following many of the state’s other school districts, and Governor Charlie Baker’s lead, in calling for optional mask-wearing as a step toward returning to normalcy for students and staff.
School Committee at-large member Samantha Lambert introduced a motion seeking to have the mandatory mask policy remain in effect until March 14.
“Everett is not out of the woods yet,” she told her colleagues, citing as a reason that many students and families have just returned from February school vacation and that there typically is a five-day lag before a trend can be determined. “People traveled and we do not know the impact,” she added.
However, vice-chairperson Michael McLaughlin offered a motion to lift the mandatory face mask requirement immediately, saying, “The Cambridge Health Alliance has seen only minor COVID cases in students. Parents feel strongly that we should relax the mandate and make face masks optional.”
Ward 1 member Millie Cardello echoed McLaughlin, saying, “We cannot wait to extend it any longer. There are social and mental issues to wearing masks.”
At-large member Cynthia Sarnie favored optional mask-wearing and said, “We have weakened the immune system of the children. We should allow parents to make the decision.”
Lambert then amended her motion to extend the mask mandate to March 7 after next week’s School Committee meeting, citing the need to wait the five days as recommended by the Center for Disease Control guidelines. However, the motion failed when none of Lambert’s fellow committee members seconded her motion.
McLaughlin then proposed his motion, which read, “Remove the mandatory mask mandate immediately and make masks optional for students and faculty.”
The motion passed with Cardello, McLaughlin, Sarnie, Michael Mangan, and Joseph LaMonica voting for the motion and Lambert and chairperson Jeanne Cristiano voting against.
COVID Cases Down at EPS
In the meeting on Monday night, School Committee members heard the COVID numbers at Everett Public Schools (EPS) for February from Superintendent Priya Tahiliani. After a huge spike in January with more than 580 positive cases among faculty and students, February numbers plummeted to just 37 cases through February 24.
In the 12-15 age group, 71% have been fully-vaccinated, and in the 16-19 age group, 75% have been fully-vaccinated. In the 5-12 age cohort, only 30% have been fully-vaccinated.
Citing the imminent return to public use of school facilities now that there are fewer COVID restrictions, the School Committee sent to its Rules, Policies, and Procedures Subcommittee a request to review the current rental policy that EPS charges to various local organizations.
Approves Vaccine Clinic
Members unanimously approved a request from City of Everett officials to use Everett High School on Tuesdays in March from 4 to 8 p.m. to hold COVID-19 vaccine clinics. Presently there is a clinic open at the former Pope John High School on Broadway from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturdays.
The Everett School Committee next will meet on March 7 at 6:30 p.m.