School Districts Weighing Options as State Mask Mandate Set to Lift Soon

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On March 1, students will be able to unmask in Connecticut schools. That is unless their district chooses to continue to keep the policy in place.

Some have already made decisions one way or another. Other districts are waiting on state health guidance expected this week.

“I don’t like going to school anymore. I show up every day there are four teachers in front of me, [saying] ‘Put up your mask,’ every single time,” said John Dougan, a senior a Griswold High School who organized a protest Wednesday.

He and some students “walked out” of school around 1:30 p.m., a rally he hoped would push the town’s board of education to let them learn mask-free after the governor’s mask orders end February 28.

Griswold Board of Education is expected to meet to discuss the topic Wednesday night.

“We want a choice as a student body to not have masks,” said Dougan.

Connecticut Association Boards of Education represents nearly all boards of education across the state.

“I'm sure districts would like a little more time, but this is what they've been given and they will work through it with their superintendents and make their decisions,” said executive director Robert Rader.

Rader says board chairs will meet the day after the state departments of public health and education provide health guidance expected this week.

“And we tell districts, you know, no matter what happens, if they are going to make the decisions that they should be based on the science and what the local public health officials say they should do take a lot of input here from the parents and then make their decisions,” he said.

He told NBC CT he expects many districts to take the mask-optional route.

“I think what will happen in many districts is will be masked optional at such time as they find that the metrics are right for their districts,” Rader said.

West Hartford’s superintendent wrote a letter to parents last week.

“March should be a time when West Hartford Public Schools can move to optional mask-wearing," the letter said.

West Hartford’s board of education chair Lorna Thomas-Farquharson says through the pandemic, they’ve been complying with recommendations from the state.

“And it's been almost two years. That's a long time. That's a long time. And so, we collectively just want to be able to safely continue to move forward,” Thomas-Farquharson said.

At this point in time, she says West Hartford schools won’t continue with the mask mandate, but that could change bearing COVID concerns and case numbers in the future.

“That has been very important to us to make sure that the steps that we take are following science are following the recommendations of the experts,” she said.

Meanwhile, discussions in districts like Griswold continue.

“Honestly I don’t think us parents are asking a lot. We’re asking for choice. That’s it. If you want to wear a mask, by all means, please do so. I would never say someone can’t do what they feel safe,” said Dougan’s mother Jenn, who attended the rally after the walkout Wednesday.

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