Jaffrey-Rindge adopts new decision-making matrix for mask policy

  • Jaffrey-Rindge's decision-making matrix for deciding when masks and social distancing will be implemented. —Julia Stinneford

  • Conant High School Staff photo by Ben Conant

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 8/18/2021 10:35:53 AM

The Jaffrey-Rindge school board voted Monday night to amend the district’s reopening plan to include a decision-making matrix to guide when masks will be in use in schools.

“Part of making sure that we have health and safety at the forefront is making sure that we have our kids in-person, in school,” said Superintendent Reuben Duncan. 

The matrix puts the level of community transmission in Cheshire County on the vertical axis and the percent of Jaffrey-Rindge learners out of school school on the horizontal. The overlap between the levels in these categories will determine both masking and social distancing protocols in the district – if both are minimal, masking will be optional and there will be no social distancing required. If both categories are at “substantial” levels, masking will be required and social distancing will be required.

In the middle of the matrix, when categories are “moderate,” masking will be recommended by the district – this means, Duncan said, that the district will specifically communicate the scenario in question to district parents and recommend masking, but will not mandate masks unless the situation worsens into a “substantial” category.

For measurements, the “minimal” percentage of district learners in school is 0-9.99%, “moderate” is 10-19.99%, and “substantial” is any percentage above 20%. This specifically measures students out of school due to illness.

“We really didn’t have many days throughout the year where we actually hit 10% with any sort of absentee due to illness,” Duncan said, indicating that the worst-case scenario of the matrix was unlikely to come to pass.

“If we had this matrix last year, we never would have hit that red category,” Duncan added. “We would have hit moderate on a handful of days.”

And even if it does, Duncan noted, the district’s plan would be to implement masking and social distancing measures only for about five days before reassessing the situation and deciding whether to extend the measure or return to optional masking.

District parents at the meeting were for the most part strongly opposed to masking under any circumstances, despite the board’s decision to accept the matrix. A Rindge father, Max Gacy, criticized the school board for the potential of a mask mandate.

“You all are the Taliban, for what you’re doing to my son,” Gacy said, after introducing himself as a veteran of the war in Afghanistan.

Other parents were concerned about the district’s announcement that masks would be mandated on busses at all times, something that Duncan pointed out as a federal mandate that the district had no power over. 

The board also discussed potential remote learning options, and proposed to have the faculty discuss options and present them at the next board meeting. 


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