Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker released a statement regarding the lifting of the statewide mask mandate in schools for grades K-12 on Wednesday.

According to the press release, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley announced today the statewide mask requirement for K-12 schools will be lifted on February 28.

With that said, it's up to the individual school districts to decide on what they want to do, for Pittsfield, that person is Superintendent Joe Curtis.

Slater and Marjo had a chance to speak with Curtis on Thursday morning on his stance regarding the mandate.

"I know people want to know now, and I understand that completely, but we do have to do this the right way to ensure the schools remain open. At the very latest, and I don't believe it will be this late, but before we leave for February vacation I will put out a full statement and video for our staff and families."

The following is an excerpt of an email Superintendent Curtis sent out on Wednesday.

Good Morning Pittsfield Parents, Guardians, Caregivers, Students, and Staff,

On Wednesday, February 9, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and Governor Baker announced that the state would not extend the mask mandate scheduled to expire on February 28th, returning the decision to local communities.  School districts were given this notice sixty minutes before Governor Baker made this announcement yesterday.

Until the Pittsfield Public Schools releases next steps in the very near future, masks are still required.  Presently, DESE's decision does not apply to masking on buses or in the nurse's office, federal law still requires masking in these areas. Therefore, local practices to move toward less masking in schools would not change those requirements from the federal government. Likewise, the MIAA still requires masking for athletes, spectators, and fans at indoor athletic events.  We will continue to monitor any changes in requirements and share those latest developments as soon as we have them.

Thank you for your patience as we put a thoughtful response together that will allow our health and safety practices to evolve as we continue to move through this phase of the pandemic. -Joe Curtis

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