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Littleton stock photos. Littleton Town Offices. SUN/Julia Malakie
Littleton stock photos. Littleton Town Offices. SUN/Julia Malakie
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LITTLETON — The Board of Health voted 4-1 Wednesday to grant a mask variance to the Littleton Public School system.

Board member Matt Wayson was the lone vote in opposition.

With the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s statewide mask mandate set to end on Feb. 28, the Board of Health chose to vote on a variance to the town’s mandate as opposed to the original waiver the School Committee applied for.

The variance would mirror the waiver given to Littleton High School, in that it would require at least 80% of the respective school’s population to be vaccinated, while there must be a reported COVID-19 prevalence rate of 4% or less for the previous two weeks. Mandatory participation in pool testing and parental consent would also be required.

The Board of Health had voted to grant the mask flexibility waiver to the high school at its previous meeting on Jan. 31.

Gov. Charlie Baker “has relinquished responsibilities to local districts,” said Superintendent of Schools Kelly Clenchy. “I’m hopeful. But, at the same time, we want to make sure we’re on top of what we’re doing.”

Clenchy said schools would maintain their testing protocols beyond Feb. 28 in accordance with updated DESE guidance.

“We don’t want to be blindsided by anything as we move forward,” he said. “We’re so fortunate to have this opportunity, to have pool testing and provide take-home rapid tests, and we’re still excited about that.”

Lyn Snow, director of student services for Littleton Public Schools, said the at-home test program would at least run through April vacation and noted “there has been no communication” in regard to discontinuing the pool testing program.

Clenchy also said the district would continue to monitor prevalence rates and, while it would require a “larger conversation,” they wouldn’t be opposed to implementing their own potential and conditional restrictions or mitigation strategies.

“I’m not here tonight saying, ‘We’re out of the woods.’ I don’t know that,” he said.

School Committee Chairman Matthew Hunt, who also attended the Board of Health meeting, said the school district would monitor prevalence rates “for the foreseeable future.”

“I can’t speak specifically, because it would be a board decision, but that’s something I believe would be in our best interest to continue doing,” he said.

On Thursday, the School Committee discussed and came to a consensus on a plan to “phase-in” mask flexibility in accordance with the Board of Health’s variance.

Littleton Middle School and the Russell Street School would be granted flexibility on March 7, while flexibility would tentatively be extended to the Shaker Lane School on March 14. The committee said they would discuss both dates further at their meeting on March 3.

“We want to build confidence in people, we want everyone to feel comfortable to, eventually, take that mask off at their own speed,” said Hunt.

“We’re excited, but we’re not out of the woods yet,” Clenchy said. “We need to move forward in a thoughtful, strategic way to set ourselves up for success.”

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