Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi said in an email to parents Wednesday evening that the district plans to make mask-wearing optional in school buildings for all students and staff K-12 starting Monday, Feb. 28.
That day follows winter break, which starts Feb. 18.
“Thanks to our rapidly declining case rate, successful implementation of mitigation strategies, and high vaccination rates, the NCPS plans to go mask-optional upon our return from Winter Break,” Luizzi said in the email.
He cited Gov. Ned Lamont’s announcement this week that decisions about masks in school buildings starting Feb. 28 would be up to local superintendents working in concert with local health officials. (Mask-wearing is still required in other types of buildings, such as healthcare and nursing home facilities.)
“This is an important milestone for our school community in our journey through the pandemic, made possible by the collective commitment to our students, staff, and entire school community,” he said. “Specifics are still being developed by the State Department of Education and Department of Public Health, and I look forward to sharing a more detailed update prior to the start of Winter Break.”
During a recent Board of Education meeting held prior to Lamont’s announcement, Luizzi had outlined a number of ways the school district already was planning to loosen mitigation strategies starting after winter break. During that meeting, some Board Ed members, such as Secretary Dan Bennett, while acknowledging that the district had no control over the statewide mask mandate in school buildings (at the time), pushed for an even faster loosening of some mitigation strategies.
Others at the meeting, including Chair Katrina Parkhill, noted that Feb. 28 wasn’t far away in terms of total school days.
Luizzi and others said a key consideration in making decisions about mitigation strategies was ensuring that enough teachers and other adults are coming in to work to make it possible to continue in-person learning.
Many parents attended the Jan. 24 Board of Ed meeting, and subsequent ones, urging the school board and administration during public comment periods—often with strong and in rare cases threatening language—to do everything possible to lift the mask requirement as soon as possible. Parents challenged the usefulness of masks, especially given New Canaan’s high vaccination rates, and cited the toll that mask-wearing has had on their children’s mental health and educational and social development.
The chair of the New Canaan Health & Human Services Commission, a local pediatrician for more than four decades, last week said that masks “are still important” and provide a measure of protection against transmission of COVID-19 virus.