The EG School Committee voted 6-1 to rescind the mask mandate, which means it will go into effect Monday, March 7, the first school day following the end of the state’s mask mandate March 4. Committee member Kevin Murphy voted against.
The new policy reads,
“Consistent with CDC and RIDOH guidelines, face masks or coverings are recommended, but shall be optional in EGSD, except when mandated by federal or state law, order, or regulation.
“After consultation with RIDOH and the District’s consulting physician, the Superintendent has discretion to impose a temporary mask mandate district or school wide to protect the health and safety of all EGSD students and staff, subject to the exceptions outlined below.” (Find the full policy here: COVID 19 Health and Safety Protocols and Procedures.)
One reason for the change was East Greenwich’s high rate of student vaccination. According to Supt. Alexis Meyer, 80 percent of students and 98 percent of staff have received the primary vaccine series. (You can look up COVID-19 data on the state website HERE.)
East Greenwich has one of Rhode Island’s highest student vaccination rates. An average of 80% of students have received the primary vaccine series. Please visit the site to view District and school-based data. In addition, in East Greenwich, 98% of the staff has completed the primary vaccination series.
After the vote, Murphy said he was “very comfortable with the revised policy” and did not want to delay its implementation but that he abstained because “[I] was uncomfortable relinquishing my right to vote on the temporary mask mandate, as outlined in the latest policy.”
Murphy had proposed the School Committee vote on a proposed mask policy change within a specific timeframe, say within five days.
He said because he was “only 90 percent” comfortable with the policy he could not vote yes.
Public comment on the policy was weighted toward those who expressed relief over the proposed change to the mask mandate but also frustration the superintendent would have discretion to reimplement a return to masking, especially if parents weren’t allowed to weigh in.
Supt. Alexis Meyer pointed out any return to masking would be done in consultation with the state Department of Health and the district pediatrician. Still, several commenters said parents should be part (or all) of the decision.
School Committee Chair Anne Musella noted that usually the committee meets at least every other week most of the year so there would be a public meeting where people could voice their concerns within days or at most a couple of weeks.
“A lot of parents feel that they should be able to make the decision,” said parent Lorraine Martin. She added, “There is a lot of distrust in the school system and all around. Everyone just wants to be heard.”
Parent Brian Turner said his comment was about procedure, not individuals.
“Consider striking the language in the policy giving that authority to any superintendent. For something that has been so challenging for the children in this community people would just like to know the conversation has been had, he said.
The vote came after public comment.
This was the second reading of the policy change, as required by the district. Find the discussion from the School Committee’s first reading of the change (on Feb. 15) HERE.
This article was added to after it was initially posted.
Why is the East Greenwich School Committee still holding remote meetings! Are they afraid of the parents who should be in control of their own children and decide whether they wear a mask or not. Seems like they are hiding with these remote meetings nonsense!
What are they “hiding”? This is just inflammatory and not constructive at all. They are parents themselves!
I strongly recommend you watch the discussion once published to the EGDS website. Murphy clearly said he wanted the mask mandate gone but was uncomfortable with the language not specifying that the SC would have a chance to vote on further mask mandates and no clear limits to the term “temporary”. I fully agree and applaud him and Hangen for voicing what so many constituents have been concerned about. How long is temporary? 5 days? 2 weeks? 2 years?
Why doesn’t EG News ever mention continued mask wearing on children causes harm???!!!!!! There’s plenty of studies/articles/quotes/. Love to know the reason.
We have reported what people have said about masks. We aren’t a medical journal.
Kevin Murphy requested to add verbiage into the policy about harm masks cause to be factored in to future use. Why do you leave that part out? Why never post articles of harm caused by continued mask wearing? Show the community that you aren’t one sided. Show that you are hearing parents’ concerns.
I believe your summary of the mask mandate vote is not entirely accurate.
Mr. Murphy suggested additional language might be prudent to add to the revised mask policy so that the superintendent could not institute a blanket mask mandate without time limitations. He wasn’t voting to continue the mandate, he was, in fact, in favor of mask optional.
Mrs. Musella [rudely] dismissed his suggestion, saying that the longest the SC wouldn’t meet to discuss a new mask mandate would be 3 weeks. There was no discussion of Mr. Murphy’s suggestion amongst the committee members as to whether they agreed with that or not, only Mrs. Musella’s decision to dismiss it, which I found to be inappropriate.
We are lucky to have Mrs. Meyer and know that she is a highly ethical and compassionate person so yes, something like that may not be necessary. But with a new Sup. coming in, it would have only been an extra layer of protection for the students to have that verbiage in the policy.