The Coalition Radio Network has obtained a copy of an email sent to Parents in the wake of Governor McKee’s decision to pull back the State School Mask Mandate … instead delegating authority to local School Departments for a local focus. Read On!

———- Forwarded message ———From: Michael Barnes <>Date: Thu, Feb 10, 2022, 7:46 AMSubject: Letter to Families Regarding Mask MandateTo:


Dear Ponaganset Middle and Ponaganset High School Families,

This communication contains information on the following topics for the 2021-2022 school year:

  • Governor McKee announced plan to lift statewide school mask mandate on 3/4/2022 and allow masking decisions to be determined at the local level;
  • School Committee Masking Policy states masks are “strongly recommended, but not mandated” (effective 3/5/2022);
  • Masks are currently still required on all school busses PreK-12 by Federal order;
  • Masks may still be required when visiting the Nurse’s office;
  • Vaccination Clinics scheduled for February 19th and February 26th at Ponaganset High School;
  • Continuing the use of a layered approach to COVID-19 mitigation; and
  • Closing thoughts

Governor McKee, RIDOH Announce Plan to Lift Statewide School Mask Mandate and Allow Masking Decisions to be Determined at the Local Level

PROVIDENCE, RI – With COVID-19 case and hospitalization data continuing to improve, Governor Dan McKee and the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) today announced plans to lift the statewide school mask mandate on March 4, allowing decisions about masking to be made by local school districts at that time.

Decisions to shift the State’s masking policies were made in collaboration with the Department of Health and based on current COVID-19 data. Since peaking at approximately 6,700 cases a day in early January, Rhode Island’s case numbers have decreased by more than 94 percent. Since peaking at 598 hospitalizations in mid-January, Rhode Island’s number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients has decreased by approximately 52 percent. (Hospitalization trends tend to lag behind case trends.) During the week of January 2, there were 9,931 K-12 cases in Rhode Island, compared to 1,547 K-12 cases the week of January 30.Following these shifts, students, teachers, and school staff and people in businesses and venues of assembly will still have the option to wear masks. Additionally, masks will still be required for people in public transportation stations and while on public transportation, including school buses. (These are federal requirements.)Masking is still recommended for immunocompromised individuals and for those who are not up to date on their COVID-19 vaccination. Being up to date means that you have received all the doses you are eligible to receive (for example, you have received a booster dose if you are eligible to receive a booster dose).

Source: Governor’s Press Release Published on February 9, 2022.(Note: Pending the approval of a joint resolution to extend the Governor’s emergency authority for 45 days.)

Masks / Face Coverings at the Middle and High School are Strongly Recommended, but not Mandated Starting March 5, 2022

During their September, 2021 School Committee meeting the School Committee finalized a Mask Policy. This policy states in part: “It is strongly recommended, but not mandated, that all individuals, regardless of their vaccination status, wear a face covering when entering a school district facility or attending school. That policy also states: “If the Governor or RIDOH issue mandates that conflict with this policy, those mandates will supersede this policy.” Accordingly, masks are required while the Governor’s Executive Order remains in effect (until March 4, 2022) and starting on Saturday, March 5, 2022 students and adults will not be required to wear masks in schools.

Masks are Still Required on All School Busses PreK-12 by Federal Order

The Governor’s Press Release stated: “Additionally, masks will still be required for people in public transportation stations and while on public transportation, including school buses. (These are federal requirements.)” The Governor established a mask mandate via Executive Order so he has the authority to let that order expire. Conversely, the requirement to wear masks on public transportation is a Federal requirement that remains in effect. Requirements for COVID mitigation strategies are changing rapidly so it remains possible that the mask mandate for buses will be removed over the next three weeks. If or when that occurs, we will notify our families. As a reminder the guidance for school buses includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • There are no capacity restrictions for school bus transportation;
  • Where possible, household members should sit together in the same seat;
  • Bus personnel should continue to have seating charts with assigned student seats as much as possible to assist with case investigation and contact tracing if needed;
  • To the extent feasible, the same group of students should be assigned to the same bus every day; and
  • Windows should be opened to improve ventilation when it does not create a safety hazard.

Masks May Still be Required When Visiting the Nurse’s Office

The Governor’s Press Release was silent on the requirements of masks in medical facilities. We expect more information to be shared with schools and the public over the next week as new rules are drafted and shared based on current state policy. If the requirement for wearing masks in medical facilities remains in effect, then students will also need to wear a mask when entering our school’s nursing offices as these are classified as medical facilities. We will update you when we have a definitive answer as to the expiration of the masking requirement for medical facilities.

Vaccination Clinics Scheduled for February 19th and February 26th at Ponaganset High School

The Emergency Management Agency of the Town of Glocester will be hosting a vaccination clinic at Ponaganset High School. You do not need to be a resident of Foster or Glocester to attend the clinics.The RI Department of Health guidance for school reopening states: “Vaccination is currently the leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic.”PFIZER & MODERNA VACCINE BOOSTER CLINICClinic Date:  Saturday, February 19, 2022Glocester Emergency Management Agency will be operating a COVID-19 booster vaccination clinic on Saturday morning, February 19, 2022, at the Ponaganset High School, 137 Anan Wade Rd, Glocester, RI for people who are fully vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine and 18 years or older or with the Pfizer vaccine and 12 years or older AND their second dose was over 5 months ago.TO REGISTER click on the Health Department registration link below. Choose an available appointment time and continue. Answer all the health questions and continue to the next page. Upon completing your registration, you should receive a confirmation email.

Click on this link to register:

5–11 YEAR-OLD PFIZER VACCINE CLINICClinic Date:  Saturday, February 26, 2022Glocester Emergency Management will be operating a COVID-19 children’s vaccination clinic (Pfizer vaccine) on Saturday morning, February 26, 2022, at the Ponaganset High School, 137 Anan Wade Rd, Glocester, RI.THIS CLINIC IS RESTRICTED TO CHILDREN WHO ARE 5 to 11 YEARS OLD ONLY.TO REGISTER click on the Health Department registration link below. Upon completing your child’s registration, you should receive a confirmation email. All children must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.Click on this link to register: is not mandatory that students or staff receive the vaccination. We are sharing these opportunities as a convenience for families who want to obtain a vaccine.

Continuing the use of Layered Approach to COVID-19 Mitigation

While the mask mandate is scheduled to expire on March 4, 2022 we will continue to implement a layered approach for mitigating the spread of COVID-19 by following other aspects of CDC and RIDOH guidance. These strategies include but are not limited to:

Social Distancing – We will continue to implement our current social distancing guidelines in our classrooms, the cafeteria, and other settings.

Ventilation and Air Circulation – The recommended atmospheric changes in a room are 4 to 8 per hour. Our classrooms were tested to confirm this rate of air circulation. We will also continue to use HEPA filters, which purify the air, in case a system fails or a need for increased circulation/purification arises.

Cleaning and Disinfecting Surfaces – We will continue implementing a cleaning regime that includes attention to high-touch surfaces and disinfecting sprays.

Seating Charts – We will continue to have assigned seating for contract tracing.

Symptom Screening – We will also continue to screen students and adults for COVID-19 symptoms.

Closing Thoughts

In many ways it is hard to believe it has been almost two years since Governor Raimondo closed all schools in March of 2020. It has been a challenging time for our students, staff, teachers, administrators, and families as we have all worked to implement state and Federal COVID mitigation strategies over the past 23 months. Thank you for your partnership and support as we have all learned new technology, adapted instructional strategies to support learning remotely, implemented social distancing and masking requirements, cancelled or modified our athletic and co-curricular activities in response to changing circumstances, assumed the responsibility of contract tracing from the RI Department of Health, and worked to reconnect students to full in-person learning both academically.

We are happy to take one more step toward the normalization of our students’ school experience. We appreciate your partnership and support over the past two years. The academic, athletic, and co-curricular learning experiences we have provided to our students would not have been possible without the hard work of all involved.


Michael Barnes

Proud Superintendent of Foster and Foster-Glocester Schools

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