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U.S. education secretary calls for 'respectful' response as schools lift mask requirements

U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks to reporters outside the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, Massachusetts, on March 4, 2022.
Alden Bourne
/
NEPM
U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks to reporters outside the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, Massachusetts, on March 4, 2022.

With the state mask mandate lifted in schools in Massachusetts, local districts get to decide if they're ready to no longer require them.

On a visit to Amherst on Friday, U.S Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said he'd like local education officials to remember that some students, parents and staff may be feeling anxious about the situation.

"While I'm pleased to see that local districts now have that opportunity to make the best decision, I do want education leaders to know that we're not out of the pandemic, that there are folks that need to wear masks to protect themselves or family members, and we must be respectful of that and honor people's opinion on that," Cardona said.

Debates over school masking, including impassioned public comments in favor and opposed to dropping the requirements, are occurring at school committee meetings across the state, including this past week in Greenfield.

Cardona also said education leaders learned during the pandemic that students don't need to be in a traditional schoolhouse to learn. He said that needs to be embraced as educators think about giving students better opportunities.

Cardona made the remarks after a visit to the Emily Dickinson Museum. He met with students from Amherst College who are taking part in a seminar on Dickinson, which is taught in the poet's restored home.

Cardona and the students discussed the merits of learning in the Five College Consortium, which also includes Smith College, Mount Holyoke College, Hampshire College and UMass Amherst.

The group also talked about Dickinson's impact and the timeliness of considering it in March, which is Women's History Month.

Before joining New England Public Media, Alden was a producer for the CBS NEWS program 60 Minutes. In that role, he covered topics ranging from art, music and medicine to business, education, and politics. Working with correspondent Morley Safer, he reported from locations across the United States as well as from India, Costa Rica, Italy, and Iraq.
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