Hopkinton Board Votes To Lift School High Mask Requirement

HOPKINTON, Mass. (AP) — Hopkinton High School has become the first school in Massachusetts to make face coverings optional after reaching the state-set 80% coronavirus vaccination threshold.

The Hopkinton School Committee voted 3-2 on Thursday night to give vaccinated students and staff the option to go maskless for a three-week trial period starting Nov. 1. The Middlesex County school will collect data on new cases during that time. The mask requirement could go back into effect sooner if there is a surge in new cases.

Masks will also be required again starting Nov. 22 just before the Thanksgiving holiday when many people travel, the board said.

Committee chair Nancy Cavanaugh voted against lifting the mask mandate.

“We’re looking to take away one of the layers of mitigation that kept us safe, and I’m not sure what it is we are putting in place that is going to protect some of the people who cannot be protected,” Cavanaugh said.

But committee member Joe Markey voted in favor of making masks optional, saying it should be up to families.

About 95% of eligible people at the school are vaccinated, according to health data. Unvaccinated students and staff must still wear masks.

Most students were in favor of making masks optional.

“I think a lot of students have put in a lot of work with quarantining and monitoring their symptoms and getting vaccinated,” Hopkinton senior Jessie Ianelli told WBZ-TV. “It’s nice to see those efforts be rewarded a little bit finally and to be able to have somewhat of a normal school experience again.”

State Education Commissioner Jeff Riley announced in August that public school students ages 5 and above, and all staffers, must wear masks indoors. But he said schools with a vaccination rate of at least 80% could request a waiver.

The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has received requests from several schools seeking to lift the mask mandate after reaching the 80% threshold, but Hopkinton was the first to receive approval.