Superintendent: Milford will lift school mask mandate ‘when safe and appropriate’

Photo of Brian Gioiele
Milford Superintendent of Schools Anna Cutaia demonstrates the snow angel method that young students are using to reinforce social distancing at Pumpkin Delight Elementary School in Milford, Conn. on Thursday, September 10, 2020.

Milford Superintendent of Schools Anna Cutaia demonstrates the snow angel method that young students are using to reinforce social distancing at Pumpkin Delight Elementary School in Milford, Conn. on Thursday, September 10, 2020.

Brian A. Pounds / Hearst Connecticut Media file photo

MILFORD — Students and staff may be able to walk mask-free in schools come next month.

Gov. Ned Lamont announced Monday that the state would lift its requirement that students, teachers and staff wear masks in schools — one of his most fiercely contested COVID-19 mandates — and is instead shifting the power to local leaders to make decisions for their districts.

Lamont said he is recommending the statewide mandate be lifted Feb. 28.

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

“As such, our goal is to work to determine the best approach for our community, while ensuring those decisions are made keeping a focus on federal and state guidance, public health metrics, mitigation strategies in use, and the ever-changing pandemic environment,” Cutaia added.

Next week, a statewide, multi-agency meeting is scheduled for all school superintendents, local health departments and city officials, as well as representatives from the state Department of Public Health and State Department of Education, she said.

Cutaia said she understood no matter what the district decided, there would be some unhappy people.

“We have heard from many parents on both sides of the issue of whether to mask or unmask students in school,” Cutaia said. “Please know that we hear you and recognize that, as has been the case nationwide, no decision will satisfy everyone’s desires around this issue.”

In order to make an informed decision on the future of mask use in the Milford Public Schools, Cutaia said district officials will continue to rely on the active partnerships that have been in place since the beginning of the pandemic with the state Department of Education, the Department of Public Health, the Milford Health Department and the district’s medical advisor.

Giving the power to school districts follows a similar tactic Lamont took amid recent spikes in COVID-19 infections in which he empowered municipal leaders to institute their own indoor mask mandates instead of enacting a statewide order.

“We are two years into this thing. You’re not going to get an all-clear sign, not going to be a day they say we have zero infections,” Lamont said. “We know from previous experience that there will be additional ripples as time goes. I think this is the right decision at the right time to give this discretion ... to our superintendents. More to the point, I think it’s going to be milder and less impactful and that means your vaccine, and your booster and your mask on special occasions are going to be more impactful and keep you safe.”

Lamont’s move to lift the school mask mandate came the same day New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a close ally of Lamont’s during the pandemic, announced he will lift his state’s requirement for students and teachers to wear masks.

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com