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.
Mask-wearing, after serving as the first line of defense during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, now serves as the second line of defense behind vaccines, according to the chair of the New Canaan Health & Human Services Commission.
A topic of much debate in New Canaan, the masks “are still important,” according to Dr. Harrison Pierce, a local pediatrician for more than four decades,
“We know how they function,” Pierce said during the Commission’s regular meeting Thursday, held via videoconference. “They filter the droplets, the aerosol, and they do this with varying degrees of efficiency,” from cloth masks to surgical masks and N-95 masks. “If you are uninfected and you are wearing a mask, you decrease the risk of getting COVID by about 67%, and if you are infected and wearing one you decrease of giving it to others by about 75%,” Pierce said. “And if you are both wearing it there is about a 92% decreased risk of getting sick with COVID.”
The comments came during a a discussion on mask-wearing that Pierce said he added to the appointed body’s agenda after hearing from State Rep. Lucy Dathan (D-142nd) and Commissioner Jenn Hladick on whether the Commission had a position with respect to masks.
The issue has made headlines recently, as Gov. Ned Lamont has asked the state legislature to extend his executive powers, including with respect to an order in which the governor empowers the Department of Public Health commissioner to set rules about what types of buildings require mask-wearing (including schools). In New Canaan, parents have spoken out at recent Board of Education meetings, and the school board is scheduled to meet at 2:30 p.m. Friday, in part to vote on whether to send a letter to Lamont and others in Hartford requesting “local control” in COVID-related decision-making.
Saying they hope COVID-19 infection rates continue to go down after a post-holiday peak, district officials last week proposed a series of changes to mitigation strategies that could take effect after winter break. Starting Feb. 28, school cafeterias could return to full capacity during lunch if the COVID trends continue to move in a good direction, while classrooms could have more flexible seating arrangements and New Canaan Public Schools could start hosting in-person school events and meetings again, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi said during the Jan. 24 Board of Education meeting, held in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School. While a requirement to wear masks is in place at least through Feb.
The district is expecting to bring students back for continued in-person learning after Christmas break, though if health data points toward going remote again, New Canaan Public Schools are prepared for that, too, officials said last week. The schools and the students, staff and faculty in them “exist in large ecosystem all around us,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi said during the Board of Education’s regular meeting, held Dec. 20 in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School. “People are watching what decisions are being made around us and getting nervous,” Luizzi continued. “And so we are preparing just in case, but we do not intend to have to go out.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi heard from East School kindergarten teacher Claudia Monaco in April 2020, while quarantining with his mother, Rose, at her home in the days after his father, Lawrence, passed away. Luizzi told members of the Board of Education at their regular meeting Monday that he and his mother were undergoing a 14-day quarantine at that time “because we had been with him in the hospital room prior to his passing.”
“And Claudia reached out and invited me to join her kindergarten class,” Luizzi said during the meeting, held in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School. “And virtually, because we were virtual, we had all shut down in March. And so I jumped in from my mother’s house, where we were quarantining. My mother had been a preschool director for most of her life and career.