Warwick gives individual say for masking in schools

Posted 2/23/22

For months it’s been debated whether children, visitors and staff members should be required to wear masks while in schools. 

After Friday, March 4 the Warwick School Department plans …

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Warwick gives individual say for masking in schools


For months it’s been debated whether children, visitors and staff members should be required to wear masks while in schools. 

After Friday, March 4 the Warwick School Department plans to put the decision in the hands of individuals. 

“As you are all aware, the Governor’s Executive Order 21-87 (Requiring Masks in Schools) has been extended through 5:00 p.m. on March 4, 2022,”Superintendent Lynn Dambruch wrote in an email last week. “It is anticipated that, if there is no rise in Covid-19 cases, this Order will terminate on that date and time.  Warwick School Committee policy GBE allows the Superintendent to determine that mandatory masking is no longer necessary and that masking in schools is optional.  Based on the information available today, should the Governor’s Order 21-87 expire on March 4 at 5 p.m. , it is our intention to make masking in schools optional as of that expiration regardless of vaccination status.”

Dambruch in an interview Tuesday said students and staff who test positive for Covid-19 are able to return to school after quarantining for five days, however, if they do they will be required to wear a mask for days 6 to 10. She said that the school nurses keep track of the positive cases and notify teachers of positive cases in the classes. The other option is to stay home for the full 10 days. 

School Committee Chair Judy Cobden on Monday said the school committee or the superintendent is able to change their policy depending on the different circumstances without having a meeting. 

“The way our policy is written we can change it anytime,” said Cobden. 

Cobden explained that the policy was written to give the District flexibility in case the number of cases fluctuates. She said for example if there were a major outbreak the District would be able to mandate that masks are required again temporarily, without having to wait for a meeting to occur. 

Under the Open Meeting Act 48 hour notice is required in order to convene a meeting of a public body. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic school districts across the state have followed the executive order put in place by Gov. Gina Raimondo and Gov. Dan McKee requiring masks in schools. 

Darlene Netcoh President of the Warwick Teachers Union, which represents 900 teachers, said that there has been a mixed view on the decision by teachers. 

“Some people are very happy and some people are very concerned,” said Netcoh. 

Personally, Netcoh isn’t opposed to wearing a mask. 

“I don’t mind wearing a mask,” said Netcoh. 

Last week there was at least one example of a student-led discussion about being in classrooms with immunocompromised teachers. 

In a Facebook post one high school teacher who asked their identity be anonymous explained a discussion that occurred during a class period last week.

““At the time I had not seen the message from administration stating it would indeed be lifted, so I told them that I thought they would likely lift it unless numbers shot back up again suddenly,” the Facebook post read. 

The teacher explained students knew that the teacher’s spouse is battling cancer and is in treatment.

The students then asked if the teacher wanted them to keep masking to keep their spouse safe. “Then, every student in the class nodded in agreement,” the post read. “Then another student mentions another teacher who they know is at higher risk and they said they should still wear the mask in that classroom too.”

“With that one question they displayed more empathy and care than so many adults have shown over the course of the past two years,” the Facebook post read. “It has been adults making ridiculous comparisons to the Holocaust or labeling a mask to be 'child abuse' or throwing temper tantrums in stores because they were asked to wear a mask or making it abundantly clear that their slight discomfort is far more important than helping to protect people who are immunocompromised.” 

The teacher said, “I told the kids that I would not be asking them to do anything.  If the policy is optional, then it would be up to them if they wear a mask.”

Dambruch in her email to parents and staff said “families and staff who still wish to wear masks will be allowed to do so and the District will provide masks if needed.”

“Masks are currently still required on buses per Federal guidelines,” the email read “ If circumstances change or if the Governor’s Order is extended beyond March 4 at 5:00, the District will continue to comply with any extension. We will also continue to provide you with as much advance notice as possible.”

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