By Staff

BOSTON (CBS) – Under new masking guidelines released by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), vaccinated students will not be required to wear masks in the classroom this fall, contradicting recent guidance from the Centers For Disease Control.

The COVID guidance for the upcoming school year was released on Friday.

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DESE “strongly recommends” that students in kindergarten through sixth grade wear masks in school.

It is also strongly recommended that unvaccinated staff in all grades, and unvaccinated students in grades seven and above wear masks indoors.

Any child or family who prefers to wear a mask at school should be allowed to do so, DESE said.

Masks are required on school buses at all times.

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Massachusetts Teachers Association President Merrie Najimy released a statement, saying the DESE provided “no guidance at all.”

As our schools reopen, DESE needs to be preparing for challenging conditions. It will be far easier to pull back restrictions if circumstances merit that step than to ramp them up should the coronavirus risk remain a substantial danger to families.

The MTA strongly advocates for safe in-person learning. To ensure this can happen, we must employ the most stringent health and safety practices possible. In addition to requiring masking, the state and local districts must address the ongoing need to repair ventilation systems and monitor and maintain air quality in school buildings. Promoting vaccines, providing access to testing, and ensuring hygiene must remain top priorities.

By failing to engage in meaningful dialogue with educators and other stakeholders, DESE is setting us up for another chaotic school year and increasing the likelihood that schools will again be forced to close. That needs to change — and it needs to change right now.

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All Massachusetts school districts will be required to provide full-time in-person learning five days a week this fall. Staff