NEW BEDFORD — Students, staff, and visitors at New Bedford Public Schools will be required to wear masks indoors whether they're vaccinated or not, Superintendent Thomas Anderson confirmed yesterday.

In a letter and video dated Aug. 16, Anderson told students, parents, and staff that everyone inside New Bedford school buildings and facilities will have to wear face masks indoors starting Aug. 25.

Masks will not be required outdoors or in separate offices or spaces where one person works alone, or if a person has underlying conditions or other extenuating circumstances, he noted.

Masks breaks will be allowed.

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"As we prepare for school this fall, we will continue to use the strategies we used this past year that kept us from having any virus transmission in our schools," Anderson stated, adding, "We must continue to be proactive."

He cited New Bedford's relatively low vaccination rate of 44% as well as its high rate of transmission of the new Delta variant of coronavirus as partly responsible for the decision.

"I know that no one enjoys wearing a mask, myself included," he said. "However, this has been a proven way that will help keep the virus from spreading — and it did keep the virus from spreading in our schools."

"We do not want our schools to have to close," he added. "Everyone's safety is my main concern...We're all in this together."

Anderson stated that last year's comprehensive sanitizing measures will remain in place, as well as the use of air exchange units.

New Bedford public schools hold around 13,000 students, and there is no fully remote option for learning this year after a decision from the state's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Three elementary schools — Parker, Gomes, and Hayden-McFadden — start next week, while all other schools begin Sept. 2.

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