Students Unmask in Class for First Time in Two Years

On Monday, February 28, 2022, the state of Connecticut lifted the mask mandate; because of that, masking became optional in all school buildings and athletic facilities. 

Prior to February 28, masks had been optional in dorms and outdoors, but were required in all other educational facilities, including the main building, the dining hall, and the MAC due to the executive legislation by Connecticut governor Ned Lamont. However, on February 7, Lamont endorsed a plan to terminate the statewide mask mandate, a decision that was prompted by the decreasing Covid infection rate across the state. 

The school had been closely following CDC and Connecticut state guidance. Mr. Stephen McKibben, dean of community life, said, “Our decision was driven by data, and the fact is, we haven’t had any positive cases in the past few weeks. That, in combination with the low rate of infection in our immediate and local community, the state lifting their mandate, and new CDC masking regulations, informed our decision to become mask-optional.”

The decision was made by the Hotchkiss Covid-19 Steering Committee, which alongside Mr. McKibben, includes Mr. Craig Bradley, the head of school, Mr. Richard Davis, dean of academic life and Covid coordinator, Dr. Zachary McClain, the medical director, and Ms. Danielle Shippey, director of health services, among others. 

Mr. McKibben emphasized that the option to wear a mask remained for any student who prefers it. He said, “I want to clarify that the new protocol is optional. I would think that if you’re going home to an immunocompromised family member, if you’re flying home for spring break, or if you’re on a team that’s playing in a postseason tournament, you would want to remain masked. We anticipate that a lot of students and faculty will continue to wear a mask, and we support their individual health decisions.”

Testing and masking procedures following spring break is contingent upon how Covid develops over the next few weeks. However, the school anticipates that students will test at home before returning to campus, and masks will be required in all school buildings until several rounds of Covid-19 testing have been completed. If the community tests negative, the school will return to a mask-optional policy. 

Spring break begins Saturday, March 5. All students and faculty will receive rapid tests from the state of Connecticut to use before returning to campus.