David Fleishman, the superintendent of schools in Newton, Mass., an affluent Boston suburb, said he recently received a message from a parent who pushed for ending mask mandates in classrooms.
But first, he said, the individual felt the need to assure him, “I am not a Trump supporter.”
While Newton, like much of Massachusetts, is mostly liberal and Democratic, Mr. Fleishman said that when it comes to masks, “there’s this tension.”
The battle over mask mandates may be moving to liberal-leaning communities that had been largely in agreement on the need for masking — and bound by statewide mask requirements.
Now that Massachusetts will lift its school mask mandate on Feb. 28, joining other liberal states like New Jersey and Connecticut, it will be up to individual school districts like Newton, and nearby Boston, to decide whether and how quickly they want to rescind their own mask rules.
somewhat lower — significantly so for Black and Latino children, who make up most of the district — the public school district says it has no plan to end its mask mandate.
he said, could stay safe by wearing high-quality masks even when those around them are not covered. Throughout the pandemic, he pointed out, virus transmission inside schools has been limited, including in some places where masks have not been required.
Dr. Jha’s advice, however, is not necessarily reassuring to educators who have seen guidelines change frequently over the past two years.
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In many left-leaning regions, virus safety plans have been painstakingly negotiated between teachers’ unions and districts, and they may be complex to roll back.
“The knowledge of the virus changes, the variants change, the facts change, which is really frustrating,” said Jessica Tang, president of the Boston Teachers Union.
Teachers’ unions have been among the strongest supporters of masking, pushing in recent weeks for their members and students to have access to medical-grade masks and respirators, such as N95s, KN95s, KF94s and surgical masks. But individual teachers disagree on how important masks are, and how they are affecting students.