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School Mask Requirement Extended to Feb. 28
04:44PM / Monday, January 10, 2022
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BOSTON — The requirement for face coverings in public schools has been extended through Feb. 28.
 
The requirement for masking had initially been approved by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education last August to expire on Oct. 1; that was extended to Nov. 1 and then again to Jan. 15. 
 
DESE Commissioner Jeffrey Riley on Monday alerted school districts that that masking would continue to at least Feb. 28 and possibly beyond that, pending changes in pandemic guidelines. 
 
"The mask requirement remains an important measure to keep students safe in school at this time," the extension announcement stated. 
 
Schools that meet the 80 percent vaccination threshold may discontinue masking for those who are vaccinated. Those unvaccinated must continue wearing face coverings. 
 
Only a few schools have reached that benchmark and some have continued to require universal masking rather than police the unvaccinated. 
 
About 75 percent of the population is vaccinated and about 75 percent of those eligible for the vaccine in Berkshire County have been inoculated. The highest rates of vaccination appear to be among staff and faculty but student inoculations have been lagging. 
 
But the Boston Globe found that broad disparities in vaccination rates for children ages 5 to 11, who were eligible for the vaccine in October. Some of the lowest vaccination rates are in poorer communities and the higher rates in more affluent areas. 
 
In the Berkshires, Williamstown reported the highest rate of vaccination in that age group at 83.5 percent. But only 9.8 percent of the town of Florida's 51 children were inoculated and 24 percent of Egremont's. 
 
Pittsfield had a rate of 44.3 percent and North Adams (and Clarksburg) 48.5 percent. Great Barrington and West Stockbridge were both more than 70 percent but Adams about 37 percent. 
 
Boston's rate was about 36 percent compared with surrounding towns like Newton (88.7 percent), Weston (92.5 percent), Arlington (102.5 percent), and Needham (97.3 percent).
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