Boston Catholic schools to drop mask mandate

Boston Catholic schools to drop mask mandate.

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Boston, Mass., Feb 11, 2022 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

The Archdiocese of Boston announced Wednesday, the same day the Massachusetts governor lifted a state school mask mandate, that school mask mandates will be eliminated at its schools.

“The Archdiocese of Boston is eliminating all school masking mandates on behalf of all Archdiocesan parochial schools and Archdiocesan-related Catholic schools,” Thomas Carroll, Superintendent of Catholic Schools of the Boston archdiocese, announced Feb. 9.

“We are proud of our decision to keep our Catholic schools open and doing so in a way that has kept our students, faculty and staff safe during the global pandemic,” he added.

The end of the archdiocesan school mask mandate will take effect Feb. 28, giving schools “time to adjust their policies and communicate with parents and other affected parties.”

“Individual teachers and staff members will be allowed to wear masks at their own discretion. All parents can decide for their own children whether a mask for their children is advisable. These personal decisions will be respected,” Carroll noted.

He added that “in a limited number of instances, the Catholic Schools Office will consider requests from individual schools where there is a parent consensus and compelling data to continue mask wearing.”

Archdiocesan schools will also follow local health board mandates and the federal order requiring masks on school buses. Guidance from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education “on mask wearing for students returning after Covid cases will remain.”

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston, was consulted before the decision to drop the archdiocese’s school mask mandate.

Caroll also stated that “this change of policy will not apply to Catholic schools that are independent of the Archdiocese or any Catholic schools operated by religious orders.”

Boston College High School, a prep school operated by the Society of Jesus, drew attention last month for isolating unvaccinated from vaccinated students at lunch time behind plastic barriers, and barring them from participating in sports.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican, announced Feb. 9 that the statewide school mask mandate would be dropped Feb. 28, saying, “given the extremely low risk to young people, and the widespread availability of, and proven effectiveness of, vaccines, and the distribution of accurate test protocols and tests, it’s time to give our kids a sense of normalcy and lift the mask mandate on a statewide basis for schools.”

The Boston archdiocese’s schools opened for in-person learning in the fall of 2020, unlike public schools in the rest of Massachusetts.

“When we reopened, I said, my position was not that we’re going to be reopened ‘hell or high water,'” Carroll told CNA in February 2021. “My position is we’ll be open as long as it’s safe to be open. And we’re literally watching the health data every single day.” 

At that time, Carroll credited the relatively few cases of COVID in his district to the strict discipline inherent to Catholic schools.

“The one thing Catholic schools do really well,” he said, “is we get kids to follow instructions.”

“So this whole exercise from a public health perspective is having a reasonable set of rules and getting everybody to follow them religiously. Well, that’s what we do,” he said.

In an opinion piece at Catholic News Agency published earlier this month, Carroll highlighted the importance of Catholic identity in Catholic schools.

“In order to thrive once again, Catholic schools must strive, in partnership with parents, for excellence in the formation of the whole person,” he wrote. “Because the core purpose of Catholic schools is to teach our faith, imitating public schools will not lead to thriving Catholic schools. And, after all, why should parents pay tuition to a Catholic school if it is indistinguishable from their public school?”

“It’s our obligation to make sure that we create a faithful environment in which a parent can be assured that their child’s Catholic faith will be retained – if not deepened – and definitely not destroyed,” the superintendent said.

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