As some of the last statewide school mask mandates near an end, responsibility is shifting back to local leaders, who are caught in the middle of one of the most divisive issues of the pandemic.
In the hours after Connecticut's governor announced its mandate would end later this month, the school superintendent in Cheshire was peppered Monday with messages from families who feel masks are critical for protecting students and others who have long been opposed.
“Unfortunately, this is an issue where you are not going to make everybody happy,” Superintendent Jeffrey Solan said. “We can't allow those individual passions to decide the debate.”
If the decision had to be made right away, Solan said, his district in New Haven's suburbs would not be mask-optional, based on metrics developed with local health officials, including vaccination and infection rates.
Some school officials around the country welcomed the state-imposed mandates to spare them from having to make unpopular decisions, especially early in the pandemic. But many superintendents say they now have the tools to decide whether masks should be required, and they welcome the ability to adapt as needed.The governors of Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey and Oregon this week announced plans to lift mandates in schools by the end of February or March, as COVID-19′s omicron surge fades. The four states are among a dozen that have kept mask mandates in schools as others have dropped them, according to the nonpartisan National Academy for State Health Policy.
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