CV NEWS FEED // The Diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts has announced parents will be allowed to decide whether their children wear face masks in the Catholic schools this year.
In a letter on fall reopening guidance published at the website of the rural diocese that covers the state’s four western counties, Superintendent of Catholic Schools Daniel R. Baillargeon said his decision was based on the best available science. He also said it prioritized “the safe opening and operation” of all school facilities for in-person learning.
“In consultation with health care professionals, in reviewing relevant data, and in following our mission to provide for the total development of every child in our care, we recommend that parents and guardians should have the freedom to decide whether or not their children wear a mask in our schools,” Baillargeon said in the statement.
“We feel with our mitigation efforts, a year of successful in-person learning accomplished, and an ongoing commitment to monitor the pandemic using objective data, we have demonstrated that our schools will continue to be safe environments conducive to learning at the highest level. We will also modify our guidance should it become necessary.”
Reporting on the announcement, local television news station WWLP noted that because there is no statewide mask mandate, individual school systems are free to make these decisions on their own.
The Berkshire Eagle reported that the diocese opened its parochial schools for in-person learning last year while the public schools remained closed to embrace a distance-learning model. Beginning last year, Catholic schools nationwide have generally proven more willing to reopen to in-person learning and extracurricular activities than public schools, where teachers unions and other political alliances have strongly resisted the desires of parents to have their children back at school.
Bishop Bill Byrne, an active YouTube user during his previous tenure in the Archdiocese of Washington, was installed as head of the diocese on December 20, 2020. He has not commented directly on the Catholic schools’ reopening policy.