Face masks no longer required beginning Friday, March 25 | Las mascarillas no serán requeridas a partir del viernes, 25 de marzo de 2022.

Face masks no longer required beginning Friday, March 25 | Las mascarillas no serán requeridas a partir del viernes, 25 de marzo de 2022.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Dear families, staff, and community members,

On Monday, March 21, our School Committee unanimously affirmed my recommendation to lift our school mask mandate and make face coverings optional for those who prefer to continue wearing them. 

Accordingly, beginning on Friday, March 25, Holyoke Public Schools will no longer require students, staff, and visitors to wear face masks while in school buildings or on school buses, other than in the school nurse’s office where masks are still required. Disposable masks are available at the nurse’s office for student and staff use.

Also, anyone who chooses to wear face masks for any reason will have the full support of our administrators, teachers, and staff, as this is a highly personal decision that each individual has the right to make.

We know that for many, this is a time to celebrate the progress we have made locally, regionally, and across the state to significantly bring down the number of COVID-19 cases and increase the number of people who are fully vaccinated and boosted. This day did not come without a price, and together we mourn with those who lost loved ones during the pandemic and extend heartfelt concern for those who face health issues from current or prior COVID-19 infections.

This was not an easy decision to make, and we proceeded cautiously to get here. As I previously shared with you, we did not immediately rescind the district’s mask requirements on March 3 when the Holyoke Board of Health voted to end the city-wide mask mandate. Instead, we have been studying infection-rate data from both before and after February 28, the day that Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley decided not to renew the statewide mask requirement. We wanted to learn from the experiences of our neighboring school districts that have already ended their mask mandates to see what their data might tell us to expect here in Holyoke if we end our own mask requirements.

Here’s what we learned:

First, COVID cases in Holyoke have continued to decrease over the past month, as depicted in the chart below:

 

Date Percent Positivity Average Daily Incidence Rate
2/17/22

9.14%

60.1 per 100,000

2/24/22

5.90%

32.2 per 100,000

3/3/22

4.10%

18.1 per 100,000

3/10/22

2.92%

11.6 per 100,000

3/17/22

1.77%

7.4 per 100,000

 

After tracking data from neighboring school districts that lifted their mask mandates as of 2/28/22, we found
no evidence of significant increases in COVID-19 cases, as depicted in the chart below.

SCHOOL DISTRICT

1/27/22

2/3/22 2/10/22 2/17/22 3/2/22 3/9/22 3/16/22

Holyoke

181 82 97 29 22 6 6

Chicopee

215 118 77 36 20 20

13

South Hadley

52 38 11 0 0 0

0

West Springfield

136 67 29 27 29 13

17

Westfield 

131

73 14 30 15 0

3

Agawam

84

35 21 13 7 9

4

Granby

16

11 6 6 0 2

0

Longmeadow 0 0 14 0 7 0

0

 

We know that there are no guarantees. We have seen both nationwide and around the world that COVID-19 cases have periodically dropped and then returned with a surge. However, available data at this time indicates we can cautiously move forward with a hopeful return to pre-pandemic living by removing our mask requirements.

I say this with a note of caution: The health and safety of our school community is our highest priority. Accordingly, we will continue to monitor local and regional health metrics, and we will continue to remain in compliance with all current and future health regulations set by the city, state, and federal governments. While we are cautiously optimistic, it would be irresponsible to suggest that we will never again require face masks at school. We will continue to establish and follow prudent measures as needed in the future. You should expect—and accept—nothing less from your school leaders.

Thank you, 

Anthony Soto
Superintendent

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