Martha’s Vineyard schools reopened Monday after winter break without a face-covering requirement for the first time in two years, following the Island boards of health decision last week to suspend the Islandwide mandate.

Few masks were in evidence as the Oak Bluffs School opened its doors on a springlike morning to children coming back from a week off.

In a letter to parents dated Friday, school superintendent Matthew D’Andrea said masks would be optional, with two important exceptions.

Face coverings are now optional in public schools. — Albert O. Fischer

“(F)irst, all individuals must wear a mask when in the nurse’s office; and, second, when students return to school after five days of isolation due to a positive Covid-19 test, they must mask for five days,” the letter said.

Meanwhile, the Island boards of health reported just two new cases of the virus had been confirmed in the week ending Saturday, March 5, one diagnosed by a PCR test and one by an over-the-counter antigen test.

Cases on the Island have been plummeting after reaching a peak of 486 for the first week in January. In its weekly report Monday, the boards of health said there were 193 confirmed cases on Martha’s Vineyard in the month of February compared with 1,424 in January.

The Island is now considered at low risk for infection, according to community assessment criteria set by the Centers for Disease Control.

Of the two cases reported last week, one was in a person in their 30s and the other in a person in their 60s. Both were fully vaccinated, including boosters, and both exhibited symptoms, the report said.

Masks are no longer required in most public places on the Island after the Island boards of health voted unanimously March 2 to suspend the mandate effectively immediately. Exceptions include public transportation, including Steamship Authority ferries and Vineyard Transit Authority buses, and at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital.

Meeting earlier in the week, the all-Island school committees had agreed to abide by whatever action the boards of health took.

In his letter, Mr. D’Andrea reminded parents that the suspension of the mask mandate is conditioned on the risk of infection on-Island remaining low, and he urged parents to opt-in to a weekly testing program.

“In an effort to keep numbers low in our community, the schools will continue to offer weekly surveillance testing, take-home rapid testing, and BinaxNOW symptomatic testing,” he wrote.

“Consent for our surveillance testing will continue to be required for students who participate in high school extra-curricular activities and for students who participate in middle school sports and band. These groups interact with a wide range of individuals on and off the Island, and their participation adds an extra layer of safety,” the letter continued.