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Remote Vermont school district nixing mask mandate

Published: 9/3/2021 9:42:53 PM
Modified: 9/3/2021 9:43:03 PM

CANAAN, Vt. — The school district in the Vermont town of Canaan is believed to be the only district in the state not to require students and staff to wear masks as suggested by the Agency of Education.

The board in the district that abuts the Canadian border and New Hampshire voted, 5-1, last month to reject the state’s recommended COVID-19 prevention measures, chiefly the use of face masks as school resumes.

But the board is recommending mask wearing. Masks will be required on school buses.

Canaan School Board Chair Dan Wade said the board is not against mask wearing, but members had questions about enforcing a requirement.

Wade told the Caledonian Record he said he contacted the Vermont School Boards Association and asked if “we can actually enforce it, and that was a very questionable point at that time and the answer was, ‘No, I don’t think we can.’ ”

Canaan Superintendent Karen Conroy, whose district serves students from Canaan, Granby, Maidstone and other small communities in northeastern Vermont, said an anonymous survey found that 86% of those who responded were vaccinated.

She said that since the guidance from the state indicated masks were a recommendation, they asked for parental input and a majority wanted masks to be optional.

“I do think the conversations will continue with the board,” she said. “I think that if we do see an outbreak where it spreads throughout our school and we have to go remote, I definitely feel that it would have to be reassessed and would definitely need to be added to the other mitigation strategies that we do have.”

She said that as she walked through the school Thursday, “all of my elementary classroom teachers were wearing masks, but the majority of students are not, based on their parent’s choice.”

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