Optional masking: How one district is preparing, how one parent feels

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Starting Wednesday, New York State will no longer require schools to enforce universal masking. News10NBC heard how one school district is preparing, and how one parent feels about the change.

For many parents, this is the outcome they’ve been waiting for after nearly two years. Still, there are some that despite the end of the mandate, still prefer masking.

"I think it is leaving our most vulnerable students with the message that the school district doesn’t care about them," said Penfield parent Kristen Turgeon. "That our teachers who are responsible for small children who can’t be vaccinated, or elderly parents that are vulnerable, they are now being put in a more precarious situation."

Turgeon is one of many parents who will send all four of her children to school on Wednesday with their masks on. She explained to them why she believes masks in schools are still important.

"Because your teacher is responsible for her mom who is older, and don’t you think that we need to protect other people. As soon as we had that conversation like they’re good," Turgeon said.

Tuesday night, prior to the State Guidelines being released the Penfield Board of Education held its monthly meeting to discuss its plan which included maintaining prior COVID-19 protocols.

"We will maintain our other safety protocols such as our classroom sanitizing, hand washing, hand sanitizer stations," said District Superintendent Dr. Thomas Putnam. "We’ll remain in regular contact with our county health department."

Putnam says parents were emailed, letting them know that masking while riding the school bus is also optional starting Wednesday. All schools will also have a supply of KN-95 masks available to students, and staff. As they waited to receive the new guidance the Board asked for patience from parents.

"Until we can get that guidance and really digest it, and look through it, and understand it really the only change you will see coming into school tomorrow is that student, staff may choose not to wear a mask," said Putnam.

The Rochester City School District also released a statement Tuesday saying the district will be pivoting to optional masking.