HOPKINTON (CBS) - Vaccinated Hopkinton High School students are eligible to stop wearing their masks in school Monday, the first time that's happened in Massachusetts since the start of the pandemic.
Late last month, the school committee voted 3-2 to make masks optional for vaccinated students at the high school. That's because 98-percent are fully vaccinated, well above the 80-percent requirement by the state to lift the mandate. Hopkinton High School was the first school in the state to get approval from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) back on October 7.
Starting Monday, vaccinated students who have completed a parent verification form and a proof of vaccination form will be allowed to take their masks off in school.
Those who are not vaccinated are still expected to wear masks. The school will also have lists of vaccinated students who didn't complete the required paperwork on time and must still wear masks.
"Yesterday the school nurses put in about 15 or 16 hours collectively to get all that information ready today to create lists of who could unmask if they wish to," Hopkinton Superintendent Dr. Carol Cavanaugh told WBZ-TV.
"Although the high school has a student vaccination rate above 95%, only 50% of parents and their vaccinated students have--to date--submitted the paperwork to take advantage of the opportunity to "off-ramp." Therefore, we anticipate that half the students will be wearing masks and the other half will not," Cavanaugh said in a statement.
"All the other school buildings in Hopkinton will be wearing masks, as they do not meet DESE's requisite 80% for unmasking. In the other four schools in Hopkinton, there are students who are not yet eligible for the vaccine."
Students like Yuanjie Wu started the day wearing a mask. "I was wearing masks for the first half then after lunch, I took it off. It feels much more fresh," Wu said.
"It was interesting to see who chose to take off the mask who chose to keep it on," Iantosca said. "It was nice. It was different, I felt kind of naked honestly and it was interesting to see everyone around the school didn't know what people looked like."
Principal Evan Bishop said all the students acted responsibly. "Yes, there were a lot of smiles and there were some students who were uncomfortable as well so you have to find that balance and it was nice to see some faces," Bishop said.
The move at the high school is temporary for now.
"Everyone will be putting their masks back on Monday, November 22, and we are doing that way because people travel over the holidays and greater exposure to COVID," Cavanaugh said.
Some school committee members were worried about flu season, unvaccinated younger siblings, and future variants, so a three-week trial is being implemented from November 1 to November 19.
The school committee will revisit the mandate after Thanksgiving.
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