News Stories, School News

Shawsheen Tech Emphasizing Need for Proper Mask Wearing as COVID Cases Rise

Shawsheen Tech students are being reminded to properly wear their face masks after the administration said best practices have been slipping and case number of COVID-19 have been going up.

“At Shawsheen, we are seeing COVID cases increase significantly,” Superintendent-Director Bradford Jackson said in a letter dated Friday, October 8. “Over the past 3 weeks, cases have gone from 3 per week, to 6 per week and as of this writing, we have already seen 15 cases this week. At the same time, the COVID fatigue we are all feeling seems to be causing a significant increase in the number of students who are only partially complying with the mask mandate. While there is admittedly no proof that these two issues are connected, many will find it reasonable to assume that they are. Unfortunately, whether it be due to ‘mask fatigue’ or ‘disagreement with the rule,’ the number of times we are seeing students violating the masking rule has significantly increased. Clearly, this trend must be reversed.”

Jackson reminded all students and their families that masks are required whenever in the school with very limited exceptions such as eating or drinking in the cafeteria.

“This is a state-wide mandate issued by the Massachusetts Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education and a town-wide mandate issued by the Billerica Board of Health,” he said. “While I am sympathetic with those who find mask-wearing to be cumbersome and bothersome, it is required.”

Jackson said that as of Tuesday, October 12th, teachers will be asked to increase their enforcement of the masking rules by increasing their presence in the hallways between classes, modelling proper mask-wearing at all times, and consistently reporting mask violations to the Office of the Dean of Students. The administration will also be revising the consequences for a mask violation, which will now include detentions or suspension depending on the frequency and severity of the situation.

“I can’t even begin to explain to you how frustrated I am to have to write that last sentence, but our attempts to employ less punitive consequences to mask violations have clearly been unsuccessful,” Jackson said of the measure.

Finally, Jackson said he understands everyone’s frustration at the continued presence of the pandemic and the safety measures needed to combat it but doesn’t want to see the school have to go remote again.

“Shawsheen is an amazing community of students, their parents/guardians, our staff and our alumni,” he said. “As a group, we have always looked out for one another and recognized that we are stronger together than we are apart. I realize that COVID has frayed many nerves and tried everyone’s patience, but I strongly believe that we share a common responsibility to keep Shawsheen’s students and staff physically present in school while the COVID pandemic continues. If the number of COVID cases we are experiencing continues to rise so significantly, a return to all-remote instruction sometime in the future is a distinct possibility. It is, in my opinion, a possibility that we can avoid if we maintain our vigilance and our common commitment to the health and safety of our community.”