School Committee chair: ‘Not an easy decision’ on unmasking

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School Committee Chair Nancy Cavanaugh has received mixed feedback on the new policy allowing vaccinated individuals the choice to remove their masks at Hopkinton High School, although there was more public input before the decision was made.

“With regard to [the Oct. 21] vote, we received more correspondence about the masking vote (both in favor and against) ahead of the vote than we did following the vote,” she shared. “There were also two petitions, one in favor of allowing vaccinated individuals to remove masks and one opposed that we received ahead of the meeting.”

Since the vote, the chair said she has received several emails from outside of Hopkinton. She noted that some people “were angry that we are not allowing unvaccinated students to remove masks (which would violate the state mandate allowing off-ramping), some of whom wanted to commend us for the vote, and some of whom were School Committee members in other districts with questions about logistics.”

She added that she “received one email which I would describe as having a vaguely threatening tone to it from a person who I don’t believe resides in our community,” as well as several media inquiries.

From Hopkinton residents, there were emails “regarding specific comments made in the meeting which I would categorize as supportive,” she noted.

“We did receive some communication from people representing different opinions,” the chair said. “In general, people in Hopkinton have been very respectful and understanding that this was not an easy decision and not one we took lightly, even if they did not agree with outcome of the vote. We also received one anonymous email expressing concern that unvaccinated students would be subject to discrimination.”

She explained that the 3-2 vote, as well as the discussion that spanned two meetings, “is reflective not just of the different opinions on the School Committee but of the different opinions in the community as a whole.”

“We made a commitment to the community in August to revisit masking and COVID-related safety measures on a regular basis this year as the situation evolves, and we will continue to do so throughout this year,” said Cavanaugh, who was one of the two votes in opposition to the policy change, along with Vice Chair Amanda Fargiano.

Regarding the Hopkinton Teachers Association’s stance on the policy, Cavanaugh confirmed that there was a meeting with the HTA before the vote. There were two meetings during the last week of October as well, just before the new policy went into effect Nov. 1.

Said Cavanaugh: “Also of importance in all of this is that we are committed to working with our teachers.”