Belmont Schools Change Mask Policy: Outdoors Athletes Can Ditch Coverings, Indoors Masks Remain On

Photo: Athletes no longer need to wear masks playing their sports outside

Effective Thursday, May 20, the Belmont Schools’ COVID-19 mask policy is being changed to follow newly announced state guidelines where students no longer have to wear masks when outdoors, even if the distance cannot be maintained, according to a joint press release from Belmont Superintendent John P. Phelan and Director of Nursing Services Beth Rumley.

Gov. Charlie Baker announced on May 18 that given the low rate of outdoor transmission of COVID-19, the state has updated guidance applying to recess, physical education, youth sports, and outdoor learning environments.

At this time, adults and students must continue to wear masks in Belmont school buildings. All of the Belmont Schools protocols for contact tracing indoors will remain in place until further notice from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and/or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Students will continue to stay in their class cohorts during recess for the time being. However, with lower case rates, this could change in the next couple of weeks. Adults on school grounds that can not socially distance themselves should continue to wear masks.  

Outdoor sports will no longer be required to wear masks. Sports that play/practice inside will still need to wear face coverings. Although these are minimum standards, face coverings can still be worn. Also, encourage social distancing and hand sanitizing as much as possible. For practices, students will practice in cohorts to limit exposure to each other. 

Adults must continue to wear masks outdoors if distancing cannot be maintained.

Here are the new rules for Belmont athletes:

  • Athletes on spring teams in active play outdoors are not required to wear a mask/facial covering.
  • Athletes when they are on the bench or in a dugout are not required to wear a mask/facial covering.
  • Athletes in low-risk sports when indoors where a distance of at least 14 feet or more is consistently maintained between each participant, are not required to wear a mask/ facial covering.
  • OUTDOORS: Spectators and chaperones, coaches, staff, referees, umpires and other officials who can social distance while outdoors, are not required to wear a mask/face covering.
  • INDOORS: Visitors, spectators, volunteers, and staff while indoors are required to wear a mask/facial covering.
  • Athletes participating in high school sports are considered youth and fall under youth guidelines.

Those students who feel more comfortable wearing a mask outdoors may do so. “As a community, we will support and respect all individuals,” read the statement. Students should continue to store their masks as they were doing during masks breaks and lunch/snack. Encouraging the student to bring in an extra labeled storage bag may also be helpfuls has been the case throughout the year.

The final decision for a school to partake in a particular sport and/or to follow more stringent guidelines belongs at the local level.

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