By Guy Page
At yesterday’s press conference, Gov. Phil Scott strongly suggested he supports lifting the Agency of Education direction for a universal mask mandate in all Vermont school districts.
But if the mandate is listed – will it apply to all schools, or only those with 80% vaccination?
Scott pointed to Feb. 28 as the date on which new, and possibly mask-free, direction will be announced. The following is excerpted from the Agency of Education (AOE) Jan. 14 direction on masking:
“Schools should require universal masking for all students and staff when indoors until February 28, 2022 at which time the requirement will be revisited.
“If it is not extended, after February 28, 2022, masks should no longer be required for all those eligible for vaccination when the vaccination rate among students is equal to or greater than 80% of the school’s currently eligible population [italics added]. Currently, all Vermonters ages 5 and older are eligible to be vaccinated.”
Currently only a handful of schools have reached 80% vaccination. It remains to be seen if a lifting of the AOE “direction” for a universal mask mandate applies to all schools, or only to high-vax schools.
At the press conference, Governor Scott certainly signaled his desire to see children mask-free:
He told a story about a Vermont mother, “and one of her daughters came home last week, or the week before, and said to her, ‘Mom I don’t mind wearing the mask, but I don’t know what my friends look like.’ And I thought how sad is that they’ve been in school now for two years, they don’t know what their classmates look like, or their expressions on their face. It’s a big part of this – social interaction.
“If the numbers continue, we’ll have this discussion, we’ll make these decisions, just like we have throughout the entire pandemic. As a team we’ll listen to the experts, our own experts, and determine the path forward.
“But you know [DFR Commissioner Michael] Pieciak said we have one of the highest vaccination rates in the country amongst kids, by far. And when you look at that, we are more prepared than any other state in the country to do this, to make this move, so we’ll take all that in and we’ll try and give you information on that just as soon as we possibly can.”