It's likely Andover School District students and staff will be required to wear masks indoors as they start school in the coming weeks.
Monday night the five School Committee members convened to discuss a potential policy to require masks in school buildings. All five committee members — Lauren Conoscenti, Susan McCready, Paul Murphy, Tracey Spruce and Shannon Scully — were all in agreement that there should be a mask policy.
"It's important to do what we know has worked and what I believe is responsible and continue to monitor that," McCready said.
The board will meet again Monday and vote to solidify the policy to require everyone to wear masks indoors to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.
District officials including Rita Casper, the district's director of nursing, asked the committee to require masks because it's one of the tools they can use to stop the spread of COVID-19, especially with the delta variant, which appears to be more transmissible.
Keeping the mask mandate and continuing to require anyone who has symptoms of the virus to stay home until they test negative are two of the most effective ways the district will keep case numbers down, she said.
"Collectively all of those strategies together are helping mitigate the spread," Casper said.
Schools will be allowed to relax the social distancing requirement, and children can sit next to each other at lunch, she added.
One of the largest differences from last year is that masks will not be required outside, even if children can't remain distant from each other.
Health officials from the town said while case numbers in town are relatively low, about a third are of children under 12 who are not yet eligible for the vaccine.
Older teenagers between the ages of 16 and 19 are the most vaccinated group with more than 95% of Andover residents that age being vaccinated. Those between the ages of 12 to 15 are 73% fully vaccinated, and the district is planning to host more vaccination clinics to make it more accessible, Casper said.
District officials also said they would reevaluate masking and other preventative measures in November, or earlier if needed.
Superintendent Magda Parvey also said she would like the School Committee to weigh in on changes to the mask policy and to allow time for public comment, she said. At Monday's meeting and in the finalized policy it will be determined if she or the committee decides on the policy going forward.