June 29, 2022

Mask Mandate for Lyme-Old Lyme Schools Lifted From Feb. 28, But Masks Still Recommended; “Individual’s Decisions” Must be Respected (Neviaser)

Lyme-Old Lyme Schools Superintendent Ian Neviaser (File photo)

OLD LYME — Subsequent to Gov. Lamont’s decision to end the statewide mask mandate in schools on Feb. 28, and delegate masking decisions to local authorities, Lyme-Old Lyme Schools Superintendent Ian Neviaser has announced that masks would no longer be required in LOL Schools from Feb. 28 onward, although they would still be recommended.

He communicated this decision to the school community via an email sent Thursday (Feb. 17) evening. The full text of his email is printed below.

Lyme-Old Lyme Schools are on winter break for the coming week and return to school Feb. 28.

Neviaser stresses in his email, “Discrimination, harassment, or bullying of anyone who chooses to wear, or not wear a mask, will not be tolerated,” adding, “All students and staff must respect each individual’s decision.”

He also notes that mask-wearing will continue to be mandatory on school buses since that is governed by federal regulations and that, similarly, student athletes will remain subject to Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) regulations regarding mask-wearing.

Asked by phone Friday morning what the key factors were in making the decision to lift the mask mandate, Neviaser stated that “The [LOL] Schools are still recommending masks be worn to prevent the spread of disease,” but noted, “The advice from the [CT] DPH (Connecticut Department of Health), based on the significant decrease in the positivity rates in Connecticut, allows us now to make masks optional.”

He emphasized that he had discussed the decision with representatives of various stakeholder groups — administration, faculty, staff and parents — and, although there were mixed opinions, “There was a majority in favor of making masks optional at this time and having a positive attempt to return to ‘normal,’ while still allowing for personal choice in terms of masking.”

Neviaser said the district will continue to monitor any changes in DPH recommendations as well as the ongoing COVID transmission rate in LOL Schools, and make any further changes in mask policy as required.

The full text of the Superintendent’s Feb. 17 email is as follows:

Effective February 28, 2022, the Lyme-Old Lyme Schools will continue to recommend the use of masks to prevent the spread of disease, but will no longer require their use for students, staff, or visitors inside any of our buildings.  In accordance with that position, please note the following: 

  • Discrimination, harassment, or bullying of anyone who chooses to wear, or not wear a mask, will not be tolerated.  All students and staff must respect each individual’s decision.
  • Through the end of March we will continue to send daily COVID-19 case numbers for those who are interested in tracking this information.  Beginning in April, we will report these numbers on a weekly basis.
  • The mask mandate for school buses will remain until its expiration (which is anticipated to be sometime in mid to late March) as that is governed by the federal government, not the state of Connecticut.
  • Parents who wish for their child to continue to wear a mask, or may wish them to return to wearing a mask at any point in the future, should communicate clearly to their child their expectations for mask wearing.  Teachers and administrators will not be responsible for monitoring student mask wearing.
  • Unless the forthcoming guidance from the Department of Public Health (DPH) deems otherwise, all other mitigation strategies including, but not limited to, quarantine and isolation guidelines, physical distancing, and increased ventilation will remain the same. 
  • Student-athletes will remain subject to all CIAC guidelines specific to mask wearing and return to play guidelines following a COVID-19 positive case.

Thank you for your patience while we evaluated many factors regarding this decision.  As noted above, we are still awaiting additional guidance from DPH specific to this issue. Once that is received, we will communicate any changes that may result from said guidance.

Comments

  1. Perhaps waiting just a couple of weeks post the school vacation to lift the school mask mandate would have been more sensible. LymeLine.com notes “All the towns in the Ledge Light Health District (LLHD) are in the Red Zone.”

  2. I no longer have students in school. But wish our district had waited for numbers to have decreased more before lifting the mask mandate, Especially since we do not have 100% vaccination ( and never will).
    Masks used properly do help decrease the spread.

  3. Thomas D. Gotowka says

    I feel that, while families are returning from “parts unknown” after break, and while cases are still increasing in Old Lyme, it is still prudent for parents to encourage their children to continue with the simple precaution of wearing masks indoors. I am aware of the science and rationale for lightening that requirement.
    Need it really be said that “Discrimination, harassment, or bullying of anyone who chooses to wear, or not wear a mask, will not be tolerated”?

  4. I have two children in the schools and we are celebrating the good sense of our school board. Natural immunity among our local children is growing every day. The disquieting contrast between seeing thousands of folks gathering in stadiums, concert halls, and sports arenas — maskless — and the de-humanizing (and uncomfortable) covering of childrens faces in an environment without disease outbreaks (our local schools) is not lost on my kids. It’s time once again to appreciate our young people for the enthusiasm, intelligence and talents they all have (not to mention their beautiful smiles), and stop looking at all of them like they are dirty germ carriers. For those with concerns, wearing the mask is always an option.

  5. Thomas D. Gotowka says

    I believe that a brief review of “natural immunity” is warranted.
    As we know, children, including the very young, can develop COVID. Many of them have no symptoms; and those that do get sick tend to experience milder symptoms, like low-grade fever, fatigue, and cough. Nevertheless, some children have had severe complications, but this has been less common; note that children with underlying health conditions are at increased risk for more severe illness.
    Natural immunity is the antibody protection your body creates against a “germ”, after you’ve been infected with it. The level of natural immunity varies from person to person and is certainly linked to the individual’s medical history and the specific “germ”, or its variant.
    For example, people who have had the measles are not likely to get it again, but this is not the case for every disease. A mild case of an illness like COVID may not result in strong natural immunity. Several scientific studies show that natural immunity to COVID weakens over time and does so faster than immunity provided by vaccination.
    According to virologists at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, research is beginning to demonstrate that the reason children have fared better against COVID could lie in their “innate immune response” — i.e., their body’s rudimentary, but quick reaction to pathogens. Kids seem to have an innate response that’s “revved up and ready to go”.
    In closing, I am going to defer any discussion of the morality of “growing” natural immunity by, apparently, intentionally exposing our children to disease to others.