Abington teachers will soon be able to see every smile and scowl as state leaders announced Thursday they will drop the in-school mask mandate starting February 28.
“It’s going to be so wonderful to see full faces everyday and just feel a new sense of normalcy in the classroom,” said Amy Fedrick, a kindergarten teacher at the Beaver Brook Elementary School.
Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley said school districts can still establish local requirements.
However, there doesn’t appear to be much of an appetite to do so in Abington.
“I’m thrilled for the kids and staff as this is a start to get back to normal,” said Abington School Committee Vice-Chairman Chris Coyle. “I feel it’s the right time. I also don’t feel anything regarding COVID can be considered “forever” right now. I don’t know what the future holds, but today I think it’s the right decision.”
The change comes following a number of developments as a weary world finishes its second year of the pandemic. The omicron-fueled surge is subsiding locally and nationally. As of Tuesday, there were 53 known active cases in Abington; the case number stood at 661 on January 13. The number of people fully vaccinated also continues to slowly climb, with vaccines now available for children over the age of five. And although the CDC this week said it’s too early to lift mask mandates, officials in Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, and Oregon announced they would drop mask mandates for classrooms.
Classroom mask mandates had also been a main flash point for some parents who feel it should be their choice whether their children wear masks at school.
Abington Schools Superintendent Peter Schafer said he agreed with Commissioner Riley’s decision.
“Based on the rational provided by [Governor] Baker and Commissioner Riley, I do not believe that the [Abington School] Committee will implement its own mask mandate for Abington,” he said.
Coyle feels this decision will help shift focus away from pandemic-related measures.
“My hope is this allows us to get back to focusing on the things that are important to making Abington the best school district possible” he said.
The mandates will be lifted when students return from February vacation.
Fedrick said she felt masks were necessary to keep people safe “when we were in the thick of this pandemic,” the widespread availability of vaccines for everyone in kindergarten and older has set the table.
“Everyone who wants one K-12 can have one so let’s see the smiles,” she said. “I worry for the families with children under five waiting for eligibility and hope this mandate lift doesn’t put them in harms way and hope their opportunity to vaccinate is just around the corner.”