Masks Optional in Region 14 Starting March 1


Sophie Pape

Nonnewaug students and staff, who have been required to wear masks in school since the start of the 2020-21 school year, will get the option of whether to continue wearing them starting March 1.

Sophie Pape, Campus and Community Reporter

WOODBURY — Mask up or mask down? Region 14 will lift the mask mandate starting March 1, making masks optional for students and staff. This decision was made by acting superintendent Wayne McAllister and confirmed by the Board of Education, which had given McAllister authority to make pandemic-related decisions.

“It is my belief that when the masks are removed on March 1 that we have to be aware … and respectful to those students and their families who have chosen to wear masks,” McAllister said at the Feb. 22 Board of Education meeting. “For the rest of the folks, we will be unmasking on March 1 — that is my recommendation.”

Everyone has been mandated to wear a mask in schools since the summer of 2020, and mask mandates were in place in many other Connecticut locations for much of the past two years. Now in the state of Connecticut, the mask mandate has been lifted almost everywhere, but the issue with mandating them in schools is still up for debate in some regions.

Gov. Ned Lamont came out on Feb. 7 stating that Connecticut would end the statewide school mask mandate Feb. 28, leaving it up to each school district to decide whether to continue or end the mandate. The General Assembly voted to extend Lamont’s mask mandate in schools and other executive orders that were supposed to end Feb. 15, according to the Hartford Courant.

McAllister said that no matter what decision local school districts made, there would be people happy and upset with the decision.

“I believe at this stage in COVID, there will be very diverse opinions no matter what the decision is,” stated McAllister on Feb. 9. 

McAllister noted at the Feb. 22 Board of Ed meeting regarding his decision that “we’re in a great spot to do the right thing and go forward.”

Some feel nervous about getting rid of masks, while others believe they need to come off and are worried that mask issues would continue if not lifted.

“At this point I believe masks should be optional,” social studies teacher Steve Bunovsky said. “I will not continue to wear a mask. I believe this will be a major step towards the goal of normalcy.”

In lifting the mandate, teachers and students can make a personal choice whether or not to wear one. Many different individuals in the district will continue to wear one, and both McAllister and Board of Education members noted that no bullying over mask choices would be tolerated.

“I believe that anyone can have their personal feelings about [masks], and no one wears it anyway, so it being lifted won’t really do anything,” junior Zoe Inglis said. “For safety reasons, yes, I am going to still wear one.”

McAllister tried to make light of the relief that some will feel about finally being able to take off masks in school.

“I know one thing,” McAllister joked. “I look way better in a mask.”