School plan requires masks for borough students, staff


By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer

Naugatuck Superintendent of Schools Christopher Montini, right, discuss the district’s back-to-school plan as Board of Education Chairman Jeffrey Litke listens Aug. 12 during a school board meeting. –ANDREAS YILMA

NAUGATUCK — The Board of Education is mandating face masks for students and staff for at least the beginning of the upcoming school year as officials follow guidance from the state.

Students and staff will be required to wear masks inside school buildings and school buses regardless of an individual’s vaccination status, unless they have a medical exemption, under an executive order issued by Gov. Ned Lamont that was extended through Sept. 30.

Superintendent of Schools Christopher Montini said local officials are awaiting further guidance from the state Department of Education and the state Department of Public Health. The first day of school in Naugatuck is Sept. 1.

The board discussed the back-to-school plan Aug. 12 during its first in-person meeting since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the state last year. A little over three dozen people filled the school board’s meeting room. Nine residents addressed the board, all of whom spoke in opposition of the mask mandate.

Mike Vanhorn, who has two children in the school system and three total, said wearing masks in schools should be voluntary.

“Parents and students should decide what they believe is best for them as we have always done in the past. If people want to be free to make choices that result in health consequences, then they should accept not only the benefits but also the cost of the decisions,” Vanhorn said.

Reagan Makowski, who will be going into fifth-grade at Cross Street Intermediate School, told the board she doesn’t want to wear a mask.

“In my classroom, I have a hard time concentrating on my school work,” Makowski said. “I love my school and my friends.”

Lisa Eggers, who has an 8-year-old son in the school system, said her son’s mask would get filthy and wet.

“I can see as his mother that they’re harming him,” Eggers said. “I would ask that I be given the choice to allow him not to have to wear them.”

Montini said he understands people are passionate about the issue and their beliefs.

“Right now, we’re complying with executive orders,” he said. “We’re going to follow the law, obviously, and then we’ll wait and see what happens in regards to the guidance that comes out.”

Board of Education Chairman Jeffrey Litke said the board always takes input from parents and the public into consideration.

The school district will provide a voluntary COVID-19 testing program for asymptomatic K-6 students, under the plan. Parents will need to consent to the weekly tests, Montini said.

Remote learning won’t be an option like last school year, and snow days will once again be days off from school. Short-term distance learning will be provided to students who must temporarily quarantine. The district will return to full remote learning if the state closes schools.

All fall sports are permitted. Athletes that play indoor sports will be required to wear masks. Fans will be allowed to attend events and will have to follow guidelines in place, Montini said.

“I think it’s a plan that aims to keep everybody safe, healthy and in school so that we can have a wonderful year of in-person learning,” Montini said.

Litke said the board will adjust the plan as new guidance is released.

“It’s adaptive. We’ll change with whatever guidance that we’re given,” Litke said. “Our main goal is to keep students, staff, faculty and the community safe, healthy and in school.”