Paper City Notes: Holyoke Community College to lift mask mandate on May 20

  • Holyoke Community College GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 4/4/2022 9:36:32 AM
Modified: 4/4/2022 9:35:54 AM

HOLYOKE — At the end of this semester, Holyoke Community College will be lifting its mask mandate.

In an announcement Friday, the college said that it will lift its pandemic-era mask mandate on May 20, which is the last day of the spring semester. Summer classes begin on May 24.

In a statement, HCC President Christina Royal said the decision was made based on the low number of COVID-19 cases in the state and new guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as state public health officials.

“This transition aligns with similar decisions being made at all Massachusetts community colleges this spring,” Royal said. “For many of you, this news may come as a relief. For others, you may still not feel safe without your mask. Both are understandable. I ask that as a community, we practice our values of kindness, inclusion, and trust. I ask that we make those who continue to mask feel comfortable, respected, and welcome as part of our community.”

The lifting of the mandate will come just before HCC’s first in-person graduation since 2019. The school will be holding its 75th anniversary commencement on June 4 at the MassMutual Center in Springfield.

Many other local schools and institutions of higher education have already lifted their own mask mandates.

Royal said that HCC would continue to “follow the guidance of the medical community,” and would remain flexible on its masking policy if conditions change in the future.

Adult spelling bee

HCC’s commencement ceremony is not the only city event returning to in-person festivities this year.

On April 28, the nonprofit educational organization Homework House will host its seventh annual adult spelling bee. The event will take place at 5:30 p.m. at Open Square.

The event will help the organization support its after-school, tutoring and mentoring programs for Holyoke children in grades K through 6. Nearly all of Homework House’s budget comes from charitable contributions, the organization said.

“We are all eager to get back out into the world and enjoy live events and the Spelling Bee is certainly an event I look forward to every year!” Aaron Vega, the director of the city’s Office of Planning and Economic Development, said in a statement. Vega will be the event’s emcee. “In addition to the good-spirited competition, this is an opportunity to hear of the significant impact that Homework House is having on the students and families it serves.”

Local radio personality Monte Belmonte will be the word reader this year, and judges will include Mayor Joshua Garcia and City Councilor Tessa Murphy-Romboletti.

In a phone interview, Murphy-Romboletti said those who work at Homework House are some of the “unsung heroes of our community.” She said she has previously been a contestant in the spelling bee, but didn’t fare too well.

“So I’m excited to be involved in this way,” Murphy-Romboletti said with a laugh. “The money that’s raised is going to be spent locally, it’s going to support a great team at the Homework House.”

Public health survey

Holyoke Medical Center is surveying community members to identify the most important public health needs in the region.

The medical center’s “Community Health Needs Assessment” survey is available until April 20 online at https://www.holyokehealth.com/chna. It can be filled out in either English or Spanish, and responses are only identifiable by the respondent’s zip code. Otherwise, responses are confidential.

“All survey respondents will have the option to enter a drawing for one of several $100 gift cards,” the medical center announced. “Personal contact information entered for drawing registration will be kept confidential and used solely for the purpose of this drawing and not for any marketing purposes.”

Holyoke Medical Center intends to share the results of the survey, and will use it to “identify health trends and challenges.”

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.

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