Updated Information Regarding Masking in Schools

Good Afternoon,

Earlier today, Jeff Riley, The Commissioner of Education, informed school superintendents that he will be seeking the approval to institute an indoor mask mandate for all students and staff, regardless of vaccination status, for the first 30 days of school from the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education at their meeting on August 24. The decision to seek this approval was based on the increasing case numbers across the state over the past two weeks along with the uncertainty surrounding the trajectory of the virus and unknowns surrounding the delta variant and infection rates.

On Tuesday, August 17th the Pembroke School Committee voted to follow the DESE/DPH protocols, which at the time were to strongly encourage masking for unvaccinated individuals, but not require them. Today's news changes that protocol. Individual School Committees and municipalities do not have the authority to put in place less stringent protocols than those required by DESE.

What this means for our students and staff in Pembroke.

With a vote of approval by the Board of Education on Tuesday 8/24, all students and staff Pre-K-12, regardless of vaccination status, will be required to wear masks while indoors.

After October 1st, if a school district can prove a vaccination rate of 80% or higher for staff and eligible students, a waiver from DESE may be sought to allow vaccinated individuals to unmask. As of the 8/19 weekly state report, Pembroke's vaccination rate for individuals 16-19 years old was 77% and for individuals 12-15 52%. At the 8/31 meeting of the Pembroke School Committee I will be seeking permission to file for the waiver to allow for unmasking of vaccinated individuals at Pembroke Community Middle School and Pembroke High School, should we reach or exceed the 80% target set by the state. We respect an individual’s right to privacy and their personal health decisions but please note, we would need to reach 80% for both groups because of the overlap in ages between the two schools.

As with everything over the past 18 months we appreciate your patience and understanding as we are all being called upon to be flexible and willing to shift with very short notice.

Erin Obey