Milford school board member calls for immediate end to mask mandate

School Board Member Andrew Fowler calls for the school board to end the mask mandate immediately.

School Board Member Andrew Fowler calls for the school board to end the mask mandate immediately.

Contributed

MILFORD — School Board Member Andrew Fowler is calling for the immediate end to the mask mandates throughout the Milford Public Schools, but other school officials argue a decision shouldn’t be rushed.

Gov. Ned Lamont announced on Feb. 7 that the state would lift its requirement that students, teachers and staff wear masks in schools and instead is shifting the power to local leaders to make decisions for their districts.

The following day, Milford Superintendent Anna Cutaia, in an email to the school community, said they planned to remove the mask mandate in the district “when it is safe and appropriate to do so.”

Through a press release, Fowler said Milford Public Schools, along with the Milford Health Department, should take the opportunity and end the mask mandate, regardless of further guidance from the state.

“It is the right decision, and it must happen before we subject our students, especially the young children, to more days, weeks and months of masking, risking their emotional and scholastic futures in the process,” he said.

Milford Board of Education Chair Susan Glennon said Fowler had had several opportunities to raise his points at board leadership meetings and yet chose to issue a press release instead.

“As any reasonable person would agree, if Mr. Fowler were sincere in his concern, he would have voiced his thoughts at our Board leadership meeting,” said Glennon. “Instead, he chose not to attend. He would have raised the issue in front of the full Board at our public business meeting held this past Monday. Instead, he said nothing about this. He might have even approached the superintendent. He did not. Instead, he sends out a press release in which he essentially advocates that we should violate the law.”

Lamont, whose emergency powers expired on Tuesday, has said the mask mandate will be lifted on Feb. 28.

Cutaia said the issue of making a change throughout the schools is a decision that requires “mindful respect for everyone in the MPS community including students, staff and families.

“As we await additional guidance from the Connecticut State Department of Education, Connecticut Department of Public Health, the Milford Health Department and Medical Adviser, we are taking into account the cadre of strategies that are already in place in our schools (and have been since September 2020) as we continue to assess the prevalence of COVID-19,” she said.

When the mask mandate is lifted, it will be up to the superintendent of schools and mayors to decide to either have masks worn in schools and child care centers or not.

“Throughout the pandemic, Milford Public Schools and Milford Health Department have tirelessly tried to create and maintain a safe and secure environment for our students and staff, and we commend them for their effort,” said Fowler. “However, we now know that cloth masks are not as effective against COVID-19, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the Mayo Clinic, we also know that children are less likely to become severely ill. And we know that, regardless of vaccination status, people are still susceptible to contracting COVID-19.”

Cutaia said she will “continue to collaborate with state agencies, local agencies, and our school community, and will do my due diligence in considering the feedback as we work to make decisions that are best for everyone in the Milford Public Schools community.”

Glennon said the school administration has worked tirelessly to keep all schools open and some 6,500 students and staff members safe.

“We may very well be at the point where it is time to move to the next phase of our pandemic response, but that decision should be made with the same thoughtfulness, due diligence, and care for all as those prior decisions have been made,” she said. “As I stated in my chair’s report on Monday, we have every confidence that Dr. Cutaia will do just that.”