PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Masking in the state-run Providence public school district will become optional for students and teachers on Monday.
With COVID-19 cases declining, Providence school officials sent out a survey to families last month to see if they would prefer to keep the mask mandate in place or make it optional.
Of the 3,000 people who responded, 69% said they wanted to make masks optional, according to results provided by the district.
In a statement announcing the change, Superintendent Dr. Javier Montañez said, “I also want to stress that masks are just one layer of our COVID strategy. We will continue to provide free vaccination clinics, free testing, and increased ventilation and sanitation in all schools.”
Most Rhode Island school districts dropped their mandates in March, when Gov. Dan McKee lifted the statewide mandate and allowed districts to decide whether to make masks optional or mandatory.
But Providence, which is controlled by the state, kept the mandate in place. R.I. Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green at the time cited Providence’s low vaccination rate — only 34% of students — as part of the decision. She noted that other districts such as Barrington had high vaccination rates in the 80% range.
A total of 44% of Providence students are now at least partially vaccinated, according to the latest data from the R.I. Department of Health. The district has held numerous vaccine clinics in schools in an effort to bring up the number.
Statewide, 55% of K-12 students are at least partially vaccinated, according to the data.