Mary Cariola Center to make masks optional for staff and students

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — School leaders at the Mary Cariola Center had a long meeting on Monday to decide if they were going to continue masking.

Since it is a special education school, Superintendent Dr. Christine Sheffer said it has unique challenges and now school leaders are focused on keeping the students as safe as possible while getting back to normal.

“We immediately got together as a team and started talking about what does that mean for a school like Mary Cariola?” Sheffer said.

Sheffer said the announcement of no masks in schools was huge for the school because it has a vulnerable population of students.

“Because we have students who have never worn a mask because their medical conditions do not allow for it. We have kids who can’t tolerate wearing a mask,” Sheffer said.

She said at this point, Mary Cariola will follow the governor’s guidance and beginning Wednesday, masks will be optional for both students and staff.

“We are communicating with our families and our staff. We may need to change our mind if we see a spike in the number of positive cases or quarantines. We’re going to have to continue to be diligent about watching our numbers,” Sheffer said.

For the last two years, all staff and students who could tolerate a mask had to wear one.

Since most preschoolers at the school aren’t able to get vaccinated, she said the school is putting a focus on health safety standards and said if it does see more cases they’ll have to reevaluate.

“We are definitely ready,” Sheffer said. “The last two years have been, you know, very long with lots of twists and turns and lots of worry. I’m excited to meet this new phase where our state and our county, the numbers are coming down that there can be a return toward more normal schooling.”

Sheffer said when it comes to contact tracing, test-to-stay and if anyone is symptomatic right now they will keep their current rules but are waiting for an official update from the county.