In August I spoke to masslive reporter Cassie McGrath about the education commissioner’s decision to impose a statewide school mask mandate.  After I expressed my objections to the mandate, Cassie said “But the mandate is only temporary.  It will expire October first.”  I responded that the mandate will never expire until Massachusetts parents collectively demand it.

So this week it was no surprise that the education commissioner extended the school mask mandate into next year.  The express purpose of the mandate is to drive up the number of COVID vaccinations throughout the state.

Consider the following quotes taken from DESE’s August 20 press release:

Our goal remains to get as many people as possible vaccinated. – Lt. Governor Karyn Polito

This step will increase vaccinations among our students and school staff and ensure that we have a safe school reopening. – Governor Charlie Baker

Instituting universal masking mandates to further encourage vaccination rates among everyone in our schools is one measure we can take now. – Education Secretary James Peyser

(I can no long find the press release on DESE’s website. But to read it in its entirety, click the attached document below.)

Only after a school reaches an 80% vaccination rate can the vaccinated students remove their masks.  Unvaccinated students must remain masked indefinitely.

According to the health department’s most recent data, only 56% of Hampden County residents are vaccinated.  When you excluded children under 12 from the overall number, the percent increases to 65%. 

Just 62% of East Longmeadow High School students and 58% of eligible middle school students have gotten at least one COVID shot.  That makes an overall average of 60% of East Longmeadow students. (These percentages were discussed at the school board’s meeting earlier this month. For more click here.)

It’s hard to believe these numbers are going to budge.  The vaccine has been readily available to anyone who wants it.   Most of the remaining 20% of the East Longmeadow students and their parents are not going to willfully agree the vaccine.  Additionally, the town’s health board has its own mask mandate imposed on all schools. So even if we made it to DESE’s 80% requirement, students and teachers would still need to wear a mask.

According to the education department’s website, there are 2,404 students in the East Longmeadow school district.  So an additional 481 students (many of them skeptical of the vaccine) will need to receive shots. 

It’s just not going to happen.