Announcement of Greater Flexibility - Regarding COVID Rules for Catholic Schools, Fall 2021 (Rev.) In the wake of recent nonbinding CDC guidance, Governor Charlie Baker (through the MA DESE and MA DOH) has issued updated voluntary guidelines on masks. His recommendations set forth a suggested approach for Massachusetts public schools, given Massachusetts’ record of high vaccination statewide. These guidelines do not apply to private schools, but the guidelines may be a resource for our schools. In light of the Governor’s newly issued voluntary guidance, the Archdiocese of Boston has decided on the following policies for masks, vaccines, cleaning, and reporting of cases for Fall 2021. This replaces earlier guidance issued by the Catholic Schools Office in May 2021. This guidance applies to parochial schools and any RCAB-related schools. We additionally ask that all Catholic schools in the Archdiocese, regardless of governance status, follow the requirements for daily reporting of Covid cases. Please click here to read DESE/DPH COVID-19 Guidance for Districts and Schools: Fall 2021 Masks: Anyone who wants to wear a mask may wear a mask and should be supported in their decision. Parents of children of any age and any vaccination status are entitled to request that their own children wear masks. Enforcement of this request is between the parent and child, and teachers are not required to be the enforcer of such parental requests. No vaccinated student, teacher, or staff member should be mandated to wear a mask indoors -- with narrow exceptions at the school’s discretion for areas like nurse’s offices and when students are working in very close contact on projects. Nothing prohibits any principal from encouraging mask wearing, but for vaccinated individuals that request should be clearly stated as voluntary. This follows MA DESE and MA DOH advice that schools allow vaccinate students to remain unmasked. Further, each parochial or RCAB-related school will be authorized to develop their own mask policy (see next bullet). Our schools do not have to automatically follow current or future DESE guidelines on masks. This school-based mask policy may not override the mask exemption for vaccinated individuals (with the noted carve-outs for nurse offices and school buses, and, at the school’s discretion, close-contact on projects). The array of options for a mask policy for the unvaccinated could include, but are not necessarily limited to the following options: (a) allowing each parent to decide whether their own unvaccinated child is masked or not; (b) masking unvaccinated students in any classroom with an immuno-compromised student or teacher; or (c) masking all unvaccinated students. As health data changes over time in the communities served by a particular school, school leaders have the authority to change which option they choose. In other words, the option chosen may be modified as the evolving science and data changes. In developing their policies for unvaccinated children, schools should weigh: level of vaccination within the school, age, demographics, historic Covid caseload, and input from parents and faculty/staff. No masks will be required for any outdoor activities or while students are eating, as DESE already stipulated previously and recently reaffirmed. Masks will be required for any students or staff on school buses at this time, pursuant to federal health order. Vaccines: Presently, Covid vaccination is not mandated by state law. Covid vaccination of faculty, staff or children may not be mandated by a Catholic school. Schools, at their discretion, may require proof of vaccination to determine eligibility for a vaccinated student or faculty/staff member to be exempt from masking. Handwashing/Facility Cleaning Until deemed unnecessary by DESE, schools will maintain: frequent hand washing/sanitation and recently modified facility-cleaning protocols. Daily reporting of any Covid cases Every Catholic school must provide a detailed daily report on any new Covid cases, on a form provided by the Archdiocese, by the close of business every day. Required Legal Baseline (not optional): All schools must comply with local health orders. All schools receiving early-childhood “vouchers” must follow requirements from the MA Department of Early Education & Care (EEC) for applicable schools and students, including any requirements for masks.