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New 'Flexible' Mask Policy Prompts Protests At Westboro Schools

WESTBORO (CBS) - For the first time since the pandemic began, middle and high school students in Westboro were allowed to take their masks off inside classes Monday, as long as they're vaccinated. The school board voted in favor of the new "flexible masking" policy on December 1.

"I was in a classroom today where more than half the students were unmasked, and I was completely anxious the entire time," said one student who stood outside with a group of parents holding signs in protest. They said they were there in solidarity with a group of teachers who staged a walk-out at the end of the school day at Westboro High.

Masks are required in most Massachusetts schools at least until mid-January. But state education officials granted a waiver in Westboro because any school with a vaccination rate of at least 80% can apply for one.

In Westboro, 95% of kids 12 to 19-years-old are fully vaccinated. In the 5 to 11-year old group, 65% have had at least one shot. "If they've chosen to get vaccinated…they should be able to take a mask off in school," said Westboro mom Nicole Sullivan. "These children are not wearing masks when they're in movie theaters, they're not wearing masks at The Garden if they're vaccinated, so why are they wearing masks in school?"

Parents who showed up in protest say the Omicron COVID-19 variant heightens their concern around removing masks. "I think at some point it needs to be done. Now's not the time. I'm not sure that winter is the time," said Danielle Jordan. "It's great to be a trend-setter, but hopefully it's for positive things, and I just don't want anybody to get sick," she said.

The Westboro Board of Health held a virtual emergency meeting Monday night to discuss COVID rates and whether mask policies should be adjusted. Board of Health Chairman Dr. Nathan Walsh said more than 177 emails had been forwarded to him from members of the public with many different opinions.

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