By Scott Calzolaio
Staff Reporter

After a nearly three hour discussion including commentary from the community, it was voted to adjust policies, allowing students and staff to stop wearing masks effective March 7.

The motion was made after a long debate whether or not to relax these policies sooner for the high school.

Within the motion, it was agreed upon that students and teachers in pre-kindergarten classrooms will remain masked for the time being.

Nursing Coordinator at Nipmuc High School Leslie McInnis said positive numbers have been dwindling, and there’s a lot to look forward to.

As of February 10, there were 16 active cases in Upton, when less than a month earlier there were 56 cases.

She spent some time reassuring those in attendance that she’s “feeling like a huge weight has been lifted,” in regards to how the case numbers are dwindling. “It’s just been a tremendous drop,” she said

The School Committee will meet once more on February 28 before masks are made optional. During this meeting, they’ll be discussing each school building in detail, and how this will play out.

Vaccination rates within the school buildings are growing, with 97 percent of staff vaccinated. Within the student population, as of February 14,  the vaccination percentages are as follows –
Nipmuc – 79 percent

Miscoe Hill– 64 percent

Memorial – 53 percent

Clough – 42 percent

The decision to make masks optional comes after state regulations released new regulations earlier this month.
A district-wide survey was put out by administration asking parents and educators how comfortable they feel about amending mask policies. The results of the survey show a disconnect between teachers and parents.

There were more than 480 survey results from parents as of February 14. Here’s a breakdown of the results –
70 percent were comfortable with their child removing their mask

6 percent were somewhat comfortable

5 percent were neutral

5 percent were somewhat uncomfortable

13 percent were not comfortable

There were roughly 125 of 380 staff respondents to the survey. Here are the contrasting results:

30 percent were comfortable with everyone removing their masks

17 percent expressed they were somewhat comfortable

15 percent were neutral

12 percent were somewhat uncomfortable

25 percent were not comfortable

The conflicting survey results show a clear divide in perspective on this matter. Nevertheless, the policy amendments will be put into place on March 7.

Masking will still be required on school buses, per federal order. The at-home testing protocol would remain in place for anyone enrolled. It will still be recommended to quarantine for five days after a positive test, and highly recommended to wear a mask for an additional five days after.