By EMMA BARTLETT The Cranston School Committee is set to update its mask policy on February 28, following Governor Daniel McKee and the Rhode Island Department of Health's (RIDOH) Feb. 11 announcement that the statewide school mask mandate would be
The Cranston School Committee is set to update its mask policy on February 28, following Governor Daniel McKee and the Rhode Island Department of Health’s (RIDOH) Feb. 11 announcement that the statewide school mask mandate would be lifted starting March 4. Depending on the school committee’s views chair Daniel Wall said the policy could change to parental discretion or continued mask wearing in schools.
McKee explained that hospitalizations and Covid cases have decreased. During the week of Jan. 2, the state saw 9,931 Covid cases among Rhode Island’s students grades K through 12. As of the week of Jan. 30, the number dropped to 1,547 cases.
“Thanks to Rhode Islanders stepping up to do the right thing, together we’ve made considerable progress against COVID-19 and the winter surge,” McKee said in a press release.
Wall said the committee would look at RIDOH’s data since they have the expertise in the field; the district will also focus on the schools’ vaccination and transmission rates.
“Personally I think it’s the right time to revisit the policy,” said Wall.
The district’s current masking policies require individuals to wear a face covering when they are in a district facility or attending school in order to “keep the school community safe and facilitate orderly education of our students,” according to the policy. Masks are to cover the nose and mouth, be secured under the chin and fit snugly against the sides of an individual’s face – without any gaps. Masks should not have exhalation values or vents.
Jeannine Nota-Masse, Superintendent of Cranston Public Schools has spent the past several weeks in conversation with the Schools Superintendent Association and the Governor’s office. Additionally, she knows that a vast majority of districts are leaning toward a mask optional policy.
“I think that’s a reasonable approach at this point and that is what I will be recommending,” said Nota-Masse.
She has also seen the good and bad sides of masks on students. While masking up has kept kids safe and limited Covid’s spread, Nota-Masse said masks have been a challenge for younger children who are learning to read, speak and learn social cues. It’s also been hard with kids wearing them all day long as well as in sports and extracurricular activities.
Nota-Masse said Cranston Public Schools’ Covid numbers have decreased dramatically. According to RIDOH’s Covid-19 Pre K-12 District Data, during the 2021-2022 school year, the Cranston Public School district has seen a total of 1,805 positive cases among students and staff. Out of the district’s 10,000 students, 53 percent of Cranston’s eligible students have completed their primary vaccination series while 57 percent of eligible students are partially vaccinated. This is similar to the state’s vaccination numbers for students: 48 percent of eligible students are vaccinated while 53 percent of eligible students are partially vaccinated. From Feb. 6 to Feb. 12, Cranston Public Schools had 20 positive cases; two weeks prior, the district had 162 cases.
“I personally am so grateful to parents and staff who have really been great partners with us over these past couple of years,” Nota-Masse said.
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