Watch CBS News

Boston schools looking into possible temporary mask mandate for 2 weeks after winter break

Boston schools looking into possible temporary mask mandate for 2 weeks after winter break
Boston schools looking into possible temporary mask mandate for 2 weeks after winter break 01:59

BOSTON - Boston Public Schools are looking into the possibility of bringing back a "temporary masking mandate" when students and teachers return to classes after the holiday break next week.

In a letter to families and staff, Superintendent Mary Skipper said administrators will meet with the Boston Public Health Commission during the break to "discuss any possible changes to our COVID protocols, such as a temporary masking mandate for the first two weeks of school after the break."

Any decision would come by the end of this week, Skipper said.

"This will ensure that we are using the most up-to-date data when making any decisions," she wrote.

Boston has experienced the collision of flu, COVID, and RSV cases in recent weeks. Covid hospitalizations increased by 30 percent in the second week of December, according to the Boston Public Health Commission.  

Despite the increase in respiratory illnesses, Tufts Medical Center Epidemiologist Dr. Shira Doron disagrees with mandatory masking because of high covid immunity and because of the focus on schools instead of other busy indoor settings.

"I think that would be a mistake at this time," Doron said, "We aren't talking about limiting gathering sizes and we have people going to Celtics games and Bruins games and people living their lives normally outside of school buildings. I wouldn't expect just implementing a mask mandate in that one particular setting to have any impact."

Instead, Doron said anyone experiencing symptoms should remain home and kids and teachers attending school should focus on hand hygiene. Anyone wanting to wear a mask can we wear a well-fitting one to protect themselves, Doron said.

Dorchester mom, Cheryl Buckman, disagreed. She wants Boston schools to implement a temporary mask mandate to protect her son, Landen, who is autistic and has an underlying health condition.

"It would not only protect my son but also help the onslaught that is projected after the holidays. Like we saw after Thanksgiving where the numbers just rose, and nothing was done," Buckman said.

The COVID surge following winter break last January took a toll on Boston schools with more than 1,000 daily absences among teachers and staff in the city.

The superintendent at the time, Brenda Cassellius, said the district was "running on fumes" trying to navigate the staffing and safety issues. Cassellius filled in one day as a fourth-grade teacher during the shortage.

"Based on last year's experience with a significant surge in COVID and its impact on staffing shortages and student absences, we know this temporary policy change may help mitigate any concerns as we return from winter break," Skipper said in her letter.   

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.