Frequently Asked Questions
Why are you asking us to mask?
Health: The return from the Winter Recess is a heightened period of risk exposure due to travel and gathering. Masking is one tool we can use to help prevent the unintentional spread of COVID, Flu, and other illnesses. We have unfortunately seen a significant spike in both COVID and Flu cases, with nearly 60% of flu cases in people age 17 or under. Boston hospitals are managing but are unfortunately overwhelmed with patients, in addition vital medicine’s like children’s tylenol are experiencing significant shortages. The temporary masking protocol for the immediate days as we return from break helps protect against the “unknown” spread of COVID-19, and other respiratory illnesses. These eight school days will allow us to cover the infection period for those who may not know they are sick.
Staffing Schools: Our focus is to support our schools and families by making sure that our staff can continuously support students as many days as possible. We have learned how large amounts of staff and student absences impact teaching and learning, stemming from the return from Winter Recess in January 2022 when BPS experienced its largest COVID-19 surge. The COVID-19 surge in January 2022 resulted in significant staffing shortages that made it nearly impossible to keep all schools open. This period saw BPS experience an average of 1,200 staff members who were absent daily, with an average of 8,500 students who were absent daily during this same period last year. The City of Boston this year has seen COVID-19 numbers that are thankfully lower than a year ago, but that has meant the return of more and larger in-person gatherings, including more travel plans, and we have seen other respiratory illnesses also affecting student and staff attendance over the last few weeks. Masking, along with other mitigation strategies, will help keep our students and staff in school so we can keep schools open and prevent learning loss.
What happens if I don’t wear my mask?
As we consider all of the insight and advocacy from both sides of the challenge before us, we want to create an opportunity to embrace masking as a known effective safety measure. While we also understand that masking may be a physical or social emotional challenge for some people or they may have a strong personal belief about masking, we are expecting everyone to mask for the good of the entire BPS community. For the reasons stated above, there will be no discipline for any staff or students not wearing a mask. All students and staff who decline to wear masks will be able to participate fully in regular activities. That said, we do ask that students and families test regularly and still follow the protocol to remain at home if they are sick and/or experiencing symptoms in the Home Health checklist.
What happens if my child doesn’t wear a mask?
While we ask and expect everyone to mask for the good of the entire BPS community, we know some students are unable to mask for various reasons. As a result, there will be no discipline for students not wearing masks. All students who decline to wear masks will still be able to participate fully in regular activities. That said, we ask that students and families test regularly and still follow the protocol to remain at home if they are sick and/or experiencing symptoms in the Home Health checklist.
What if I don’t want my child to wear a mask?
All students who do not wear masks will be allowed to participate fully in normal activities. BPS will not discipline any student who does not wish to wear a mask. All students will be offered a mask when they arrive at school or when they go on a school bus but students can decline them. Students and families do not have to request permission or take additional steps if they decide not to mask.
Does my child have to wear a mask during singing or musical performances?
Singing and wind instruments is a high-risk activity for the spread of COVID. During the time from January 4th to January 13th, students practicing or performing singing or wind instruments will be asked and expected to mask or use other appropriate mitigation measures (i.e., covers for wind instruments).
Does my child have to wear a mask for school sports?
Masks for sporting practices and games will be available, but not expected. While we are focused on masking in school during the school day, we hope the spirit of teamwork in sports will also extend to the shared responsibility to keep each other safe through mask use whenever possible during athletic competitions and practices.
Does my child have to wear a mask during gym class?
Masking will be asked and expected when participating in indoor gym classes. However, if students participate in outdoor gym class activities, they will not need to wear masks.
Does my child have to wear a mask during recess?
Students participating in outdoor activities do not need to wear masks.
Does my child have to wear a mask on the school bus or while taking the MBTA?
BPS considers the school bus transportation offered to be an extension of the classroom. As a result, we are asking and expecting students to wear masks while they travel on the school bus, the MBTA, or alternate transportation provided by BPS. Please note that our public transit system also maintains a balance of encouraging the use of face masks while respecting those who may have reasons not to wear them as well.
Do I have to wear a mask if I am visiting the school?
We ask and expect all visitors on school grounds to wear a face mask. Please help us keep everyone safe by following the temporary protocol.
Will my child have a mask break?
We will not have formal mask breaks, however, students are encouraged to remove their masks and take a break when they need to do so. Students who choose to remove their masks temporarily will not be penalized for doing so.
What can my child expect during lunch time?
Students will not be expected to mask while eating.