Following the first reading of the Bedford School Department’s mask policy at their August 31 meeting, Superintendent Philip Conrad presented the policy on September 8; it complies with the state requirement for masks in schools.
Tuesday’s second reading included School Committee member Ann Guay’s amendment that prohibits sharing or trading masks among students.
Conrad, citing the state education department’s guidance, stated that the face masks must have ties or ear loops, noting that cloth “gaiters” are not acceptable as masks under the current guidelines, although he said that could change.
In answer to a question from committee member JoAnn Santiago, Conrad explained that the policy will cover spectators at interscholastic sports contests, while the Athletic Department is drafting its own policy for student-athletes in competition or on the sidelines.
Santiago, who was weighing whether the sports policy should be included in the overall guidance, encouraged Conrad to publish the school mask guidelines on the district website.
Conrad, responding to a question from Guay, explained that masks are the preferred method of protection, but if a student needs to wear a face shield instead of a mask, the school principal will consult with the nurse and town health officials. He noted that the Board of Health feels that a mask provides more protection than a face shield.
School Committee Secretary Brad Morrison sought clarity around which disabilities or conditions would warrant a student being granted a face mask waiver. Conrad replied that an outside medical consultation from a doctor or therapist would be necessary, though such exemptions would be rare. Morrison said building leadership must have the resources and authority to enforce the policy as its written.
School Committee Chair Dan Brosgol stated his concern with how the schools will enforce whether a mask is permitted. He asked the superintendent how the district prepares to handle the education of students with hearing loss.
Conrad assured Brosgol that the district had purchased clear masks so that teachers of students with hearing loss, or who would be helped by seeing facial expressions, could learn effectively.