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    Tuesday, November 28, 2023

    Norwich school board reverses course, lifts mask mandate starting Monday

    Norwich — The Board of Education held an emergency meeting Saturday morning, reversed its Thursday vote and dropped the in-school mask mandate beginning Monday after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new COVID-19 recommendations Friday.

    On Friday evening, the CDC dropped its recommendation for indoor mask-wearing, including in schools and on school buses and vans, in areas designated as having low or moderate community spread of COVID-19. New London County is in a low community spread zone.

    The CDC announcement came one day after the Norwich school board voted 5-3 to extend its in-school mask mandate until March 18, matching the previous federal mandate for masks on school buses. The party-line vote with the board’s five Democrats prevailing, came after passionate but limited public comments on both sides of the debate during an online meeting Thursday.

    Democratic board Chairman Robert Aldi late Friday scheduled an emergency meeting for Saturday morning to reconsider the mask mandate — with no public comment on the agenda but for the accompanying written chat on the Zoom session.

    Aldi’s motion to rescind the mask mandate passed 8-0, with Republican Joshua Chapman absent. Chapman was a staunch supporter of lifting the mandate Thursday.

    Students and staff members have the option to wear masks beginning Monday morning on school buses and in schools.

    “Being that we didn’t have this information on Thursday evening, and we were trying to make the best possible decision with the information we had for our thousands of students and hundreds of employees,” Democrat Mark Kulos said, “I feel we did make the best motion we could at the time, but given light of this new information, I believe we should support and rescind the extension of the mask mandate.”

    There was little debate during the 10-minute meeting. But Republican Christine DiStasio countered Kulos, saying those who voted against the mask mandate extension felt they already had the right information.

    “We’ve been following the science from the beginning and felt we were voting in the interests of our children and staff, particularly our children, who are our main priority,” DiStasio said.

    Within minutes of the vote, Superintendent Kristen Stringfellow immediately issued a letter to school families and staff stressing that mask-wearing will be optional — in italics and bold in her letter — beginning Monday.

    “Please know this information is subject to change based upon a change in the COVID-19 data and/or CDC/Department of Health requirements,” she wrote.


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