By Guy Page
After the first few weeks of the coming school year, students and staff at Vermont schools with 80% or more eligible students vaccinated won’t need to wear masks – except for the unvaccinated.
That’s one of the recommended – but not required – guidelines announced today by the Vermont Agency of Education (AOE) for Covid-19 masking for the 2021-2022 school year. These guidelines were shared by Agency Secretary Dan French at today’s press conference:
- All students and staff at all schools must wear masks for the “first few weeks” of the school year.
- After that initial period, all students and staff with schools with vaccination rates below 80% of eligible students (12 and over) must wear masks.
- Vaccinated students and staff in schools with above 80% eligible students vaccinated will not be required to wear masks.
- Unvaccinated students and staff must wear masks.
Masking “is incredibly powerful and it’s worked very well for us,” Health Commissioner Mark Levine said. There are no recommended social distancing requirements.
French was asked how Vermont schools will know they have reached the 80% threshhold. “We have a strong understanding of what goes on in our schools,” he said.
Wilson Ring of the Associated Press asked if following the guidelines will be voluntary, for either school districts or parents? “The State of Emergency ended in the spring,” French said. “School districts have the authority to not follow [AOE] guidance.” However, parents will not have the freedom to disregard guidelines established by school boards, he said.
Last year, under the State of Emergency, private schools were in compliance with masking and social distancing guidelines. This year, that decision will be up to the individual schools.
County Courier editor Greg Lamoureux asked if the urge to reach the 80% threshhold will lead to “condoning bullying and peer pressure” – the vaccinated putting pressure on the unvaccinated. Scott said he’s concerned about such confrontations, but that policy is about “trying to encourage and inspire others.”