Governor Dan McKee, joined by Department of Health Director Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH., and Department of Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green, on Thursday announced that all students, teachers, school staff and visitors will be required to wear face masks inside public school buildings at the start of the 2021-2022 school year. 

Ensuring that students can safely return to in-person learning has been a priority for the Governor since day one of his Administration, according to a press release from Governor McKee’s office. Shortly after taking office, the Governor partnered with municipalities to assist with the state’s vaccine distribution and prioritized teachers, school staff and child care workers in Rhode Island’s vaccination efforts. 

“Our number one priority has always been the health and safety of our children as they return to in-person learning this fall,” said Governor Dan McKee in a statement. “We know that Rhode Island has one of the leading vaccine rollouts in the nation – and vaccines are our way out of the pandemic. We also know that, right now, children under the age of 12 cannot get vaccinated. That’s why masking is critical in schools. It buys us time until more children become eligible to receive the vaccine. I commend and thank the many municipalities and local school officials who already took the state’s recommendation and made plans to require masking for the beginning of the school year. I urge all eligible students and families who are not yet vaccinated to get their shot – it is time.” 

“Masking in schools for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people is critical to minimizing disruptions and ensuring that students are where they belong – in the classroom learning,” said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH in a statement. “Masking across the board in schools allows us to focus our attention on all the other elements of our approach to layered mitigation, including testing, vaccinations, and the use of stable pods. We are very grateful to the school leadership throughout the state for all the work they are doing to help keep students, teachers, and staff healthy and safe.” 

“We’re excited for all Rhode Island students to return to school and experience the full academic and social benefits of in-person learning while we keep them as safe as possible,” said Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green in a statement. “We know there is no substitute for in-person learning and the thoughtful and bold action taken today with a mask mandate for schools statewide will help keep our students healthy and engaged. I know that we will have a successful school year working closely with students, families, and local school leaders and building on the lessons we’ve learned throughout the pandemic.” 

The Governor signed an Executive Order on Thursday afternoon requiring school districts that have not adopted a mandatory mask policy to do so. 

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Ryan Belmore is the Owner & Publisher of What's Up Newp, LLC. Belmore has led What's Up Newp since December 2012. Belmore also serves as the Sr. Editor - North America for Mountain News - publisher of OnTheSnow. In his spare time, Belmore serves as the Vice President for the Board of Directors at Fort Adams Trust and serves on the Board of Directors at Lucy's Hearth. Belmore is also a member and supporter of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers. Send questions, tips, and story ideas to Ryan@whatsupnewp.com.