Where masks may once again be a part of year-end school celebrations

"I understand how disappointing this change may be to many of you," one superintendent said in reinstating a mask mandate.
By: | May 11, 2022
Students and staff are wearing masks as the school year winds down in some districts.Students and staff are wearing masks as the school year winds down in some districts.

The steady rise of COVID cases is dashing hopes of ending the school year without the return of mask mandates in a growing number of districts. A smaller number of schools and districts have even gone back to remote instruction as the ongoing pandemic threatens to once again impact graduation ceremonies, proms and other important year-end celebrations.

Portland Public Schools in Maine may be the largest district this week to reinstate COVID precautions. The school system, which made masks optional on March 14, required students and staff to wear masks starting Thursday because of “high” transmission rates in the surrounding county, Superintendent Xavier Botana said. “I understand how disappointing this change may be to many of you,” Botana wrote in a letter to the community. “Adding to the risk is the fact that end-of-year ceremonies and other gatherings are taking place. While we are not recommending changes to these events, all these factors make a return to required masking the safest course at this time.”

With Maine now experiencing the highest rate of new cases in the entire country, another one of the state’s larger districts, Bangor Public Schools, has reinstated a mask until further notice as its county also moved into the CDC’s red category for high transmission. “All staff are being extra diligent in their work to ensure that all safety protocols are followed and that students can continue in-person learning, activities, and enjoy end-of-the-school-year celebrations,” Superintendent James Tager said.

In western Massachusetts, masks are again required in Northampton Public Schools due to “a substantial increase” of COVID-19, the Daily Hampshire Gazette reported. Administrators in the Boston suburbs, meanwhile, are strongly urging staff and students to wear face coverings, according to Boston.com. And in Ohio, the Bedford City School District has brought back its mask requirement until further notice even though transmission remains low across the state, News 5 Cleveland reported.

And a few closures

Only a handful of districts have closed schools during this latest wave of the pandemic. Hyde Park Schools in New York closed its six buildings on Wednesday and shifted to remote instruction due to a shortage of transportation staff. In Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh Public Schools has closed its Creative and Performing Arts high school through Friday as the building hit a 5% threshold for positive COVID cases. Students and staff will be required to wear masks when they return next week. The elementary school in the nearby Sto-Rox School District went remote Monday and Tuesday.

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