BOURNE — Superintendent Kerri Anne Quinlan-Zhou reports that the Bourne School Committee’s Policy Sub-Committee voted this evening to modify the district’s school mask mandate in line with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s (DESE) latest masking protocols.
The committee held a special meeting Wednesday for the purpose of discussing and voting on revisions to the district’s mask policy. At the meeting, the Committee voted to rescind the policy, making masking optional for all Bourne Public Schools students beginning on Monday, Feb. 28.
Members of the school community were asked to fill out a survey to give the district input on the policy. Responses were shared to advise the School Committee in making their decision. More than 1,300 responses were received from families across all BPS schools, and nearly 80 percent of responses indicated a desire to change the masking policy to optional.
The district consulted with local and state health officials before deciding on making the change to its masking policy. Dr. Roshann Hooshmand of Cape Cod Pediatrics, the Bourne Public Schools’ official district physician, wrote to the committee prior to the meeting to express her support of eliminating the mask mandate. The committee weighed her remarks in making their decision as well.
In her letter, Dr. Hooshmand said that pediatricians continue to recommend that vaccines, including booster shots when eligible, are the most important defense against the spread of COVID-19 and that readily available antigen testing at school and home continues to allow the district to diagnose and monitor the prevalence of the virus in the school community.
“Removing masks will be another step in the normalization process for [children] and further support their emotional and social development,” Dr. Hooshmand wrote in her letter to the district. “Our greatest burden of COVID-related disease in children has been the mental health crisis brought about by the disruptions in their lives and limited access to mental health care. Our schools have done an incredible job balancing education with the need to provide a healthy and safe environment. We now know how to move forward by removing masks — yet being mindful of COVID protocols and providing a balanced approach to the health and well-being of our students.”
On Feb. 9, Commissioner Jeffrey Riley announced that the statewide school mask mandate would not be renewed after it expires on Feb. 28. The decision was made after consulting with medical experts and state health officials, and considering high vaccination rates and widespread availability of COVID-19 testing for school staff and students.
As a result, masking in school buildings would revert back to a local policy decision to be made by individual school committees.
“We are grateful for the cooperation and support of our entire school community as we have navigated this pandemic, and making the decision to lift our mask mandate was one we made after careful consideration with our health officials and state public health experts,” Bourne School Committee Chair Emily Berry said. “While we are excited about taking this next step toward a more normal and traditional way of life for our students, we will continue to monitor COVID-19 cases in the district and throughout the town, and will continue to take the recommended precautions to keep our students and staff safe.”
For up-to-date information on the district’s COVID-19 policies and case counts, visit the district’s COVID-19 resources page here.