Ridgefield school officials move to make masks optional

Scotts Ridge Middle School students arrive masked to the first day of classes for the 2021-22 school year.

Scotts Ridge Middle School students arrive masked to the first day of classes for the 2021-22 school year.

Alyssa Seidman / Hearst Connecticut Media file photo

RIDGEFIELD — School administrators announced this week that masks would be optional for students, staff and visitors of Ridgefield Public Schools starting Feb. 28.

Schools have been required to follow a mask mandate since the beginning of the 2020-21 school year per the governor’s executive orders. With that order expiring, local districts now have the power to make their decisions.

“Overall we have high vaccination rates here in Ridgefield (and a) low number of cases in schools,” Superintendent Susie Da Silva said.

More than 95 percent of school faculty are fully vaccinated, and many, if not all, have received a booster, she added. Additionally, about 87 percent of students ages 12 and up have gotten their shot, and the percentage for 5-11 year olds is about 57 percent.

The guidance also applies to children enrolled in local preschools but not child care centers.

Da Silva acknowledged that since some families may continue to send their children to school with a mask, administrators would find ways to “operationalize” those choices in developmentally-appropriate ways.

“So when some children come to school with their masks on and others don’t, how do we communicate with one another? What does choice look like for adults and for kids? How do we communicate in respectful … and kind ways?,” she posed. “We know that looks one way for kindergartners and a very different way for 11th graders.”

Da Silva said she was unsure how the new guidance would impact quarantines and contact tracing within the schools, but expects more information to be communicated from the state this week.

alyssa.seidman@hearstmediact.com