By Staff

SOUTHBRIDGE (CBS) – The upcoming statewide school mask mandate won’t make a difference for students in Southbridge who returned to the classroom on Tuesday. The school district made the decision to require face masks for grades K-12 long before the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education’s vote.

“It’s not really much of an issue,” said Southbridge Public Schools Superintendent Jeffrey Villar. “I think our kids understand the importance, it’s a mitigation layer that protects all of us.”

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“I feel it’s more safe, even with the shot,” said Southbridge High School senior Jose Aviles. “I feel more safe with a mask on because you can still get COVID even if you have a vaccine.”

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education held a special meeting Tuesday morning and voted to grant state education commissioner Jeffrey Riley the authority to put a universal school mask mandate in place. A DESE spokesperson said the mask rule will go into effect once Riley formally issues a mandate, which is expected on Wednesday.

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In Westport, the school committee voted to give vaccinated students the option to go without a mask, but not after the state school board’s vote.

“It’s taken a little bit of the pressure off,” said Westport School Superintendent Thomas Aubin. He said having clear cut guidelines from the state has made it easier and he hopes it will give kids a reason to get the shot.

“In October in terms of possible vaccination percentages determining whether masks will still be required will certainly be an incentive for people who are on the fence to get vaccinated.”

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On October 1, the Board of Education will revisit whether masks will be required in the classroom. Staff