It’s Time to Bring Singing, Music & Theater Back Safely to MA K–12 Public Schools

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As parents and supporters of music in K–12 public schools in Massachusetts, we were very excited to see that the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) recently revised guidelines to allow high aerosol producing indoor and outdoor sports to resume with safety protocols in place. Now, it’s time to do the same for music and the arts, including:

  • Revising singing guidance to allow for indoor singing 
  • Revising guidance to allow in-person music and theatre rehearsals after school

We are so proud of all that music educators and school administrators have been doing to follow the science to safely and creatively provide learning opportunities for students in band, chorus, and orchestra.

Now that there is more definitive scientific evidence on how the virus spreads, we are asking that DESE revise restrictions on full indoor music ensembles and theater rehearsals with safety measures in place, as well as allowing for singing indoors.

DESE’s recent revisions informed by the latest scientific research to allow indoor sports practices and games such as basketball shows that safety protocols can be put in place within each school to allow high aerosol activities to take place indoors after school hours. This petition calls on DESE to equitably revise similar outside-of-school time guidelines to allow full band, chorus, orchestra, and theater rehearsals to take place indoors after school with safety protocols in place. 

The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHSA) has released their recommendations for singing based on the most recent results of the Colorado State University aerosols study. The study focuses on aerosol production with wind/brass playing and singing. The study’s results have made recommendations that will allow for singing safely in schools indoors. 

Based on the NFHS recommendations from the aerosol study, singing can occur safely in schools with the following mitigation protocols:

  • Masks at all times (tight fitting, three-layer masks recommended)
  • Minimum 6 ft. social distancing (DESE currently recommends 10 ft.)
  • Singing can occur outdoors or indoors
  • If indoors use a space with elevated outdoor air exchange rate from HVAC. 
  • Rehearsals should be limited to 30 minutes. Indoors, the room should be cleared, and leaders should wait until at least one HVAC air change has occurred before the next rehearsal.  

Based on these findings the guidance for singing indoors could mirror the current DESE guidance on wind and brass playing indoors due to the study’s aerosol production findings:

  • Singers produce aerosol at similar rates as woodwinds and brass. The amount of aerosol varies depending on consonants, vowels, intensity, and pitch. Singers wearing a well fit 3-layer surgical style mask reduces aerosol emission.

We understand that DESE continues to keep student and staff safety at the forefront of their planning, which includes providing guidance for important programs like athletics and the arts to continue.

Much like athletics programs, music provides critically important social interaction, personal development, mental health benefits as well as pathways to scholarships and future vocations. We are pleased that DESE has revised restrictions for student athletes, now it’s time to do the same for student musicians.