The mask debate continues amongst some parents and teachers

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — We spoke to a handful of parents and some teachers, and emotions on masking in school are mixed.

Some want to keep masks, some don’t. And some are worried about the drop of a new variant with masking mandates being lifted.

Masking in schools has been a topic of controversy in school board meetings for many months with parents calling for an end to the masks.

A new statement from the New York State United Teachers Union (NYSUT) says, “We welcome this step toward normalcy. The governor is striking the right balance by empowering local officials to use data to determine if and when the mitigation strategies need to change in their areas. As the guidance changes, one thing must remain constant: It’s essential that districts work closely with educators to ensure there is confidence in their health and safety plans.” But, some families still have questions.

"Now that the masks are going to be off, the next variant is going to go ‘Boom’,” said Kellijoe Kaughman, a concerned parent.

The governor announced the change during a COVID briefing Sunday afternoon saying her decision to lift the mask mandate inside schools comes after a decline in positivity rates, low hospitalization, high vaccination rates as well as new recommendations on masking from the CDC. But, Hochul says if numbers start to go up again, so will the masks.

“Last October, November…the numbers were starting to decline – that was good. Do we really need the requirements in place? Then Omicron hit.. We need to retain the flexibility to make adjustments as needed,” Hochul said.

One elementary school teacher in the Rochester City Shool District says he’s cautiously welcoming the idea of no masks but has reservations

"I recognize that having the masks off is going to create a situation where people are going to get sick again. This is the first time I’ve gone through a period of time without getting sick but at the same time I’m worried about getting sick from a disease that caused a worldwide pandemic,” Jason Valenti told News10NBC.

Valenti has been an elementary school teacher for over 20 years. He says when masks were mandatory, for the first time in his career, he experienced a school year without getting sick, like your average cold.

"I’m excited for the chance to return to normalcy. I’m also a little nervous about what will happen if you open the dam,” Valenti added.

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello and Public Health commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza also released a statement Sunday saying,

“Governor Kathy Hochul announced she is lifting the mask mandate for schools as of this Wednesday, March 2. This is an appropriate and welcome decision based on data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that shows most of New York State — and Monroe County — are no longer considered to have a high transmission rate of COVID. Lifting of the mask requirement allows school districts to go mask-optional and let parents decide if their children should still mask. This is a smart and prudent option. We urge parents that feel the need for continued masking of their children to do so — and for those that opt not to mask to respect everyone’s personal decision. Last week, Monroe County distributed 250,000 high-quality adult and pediatric masks to school districts countywide. The county will continue to distribute rapid home test kits free to the public and will announce an updated distribution plan tomorrow. “