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School masking policies in local districts’ hands starting Wednesday

Student in face mask studying in class k-12 school masking
Iakov Filimonov (JackF)/JackF
Adobe Stock
A young student wears a cloth face mask at their school desk.

It is up to local school districts to decide their masking policies in schools and on school buses beginning Wednesday.

March 2 marks the end of the statewide school mask mandate and Monroe County will not be implementing a county-wide mask requirement.

Bo Wright, president of the Monroe County Council of School Superintendents and the Superintendent of Rush-Henrietta Central School District, said on Tuesday that regardless of whether or not a student or staff member decides to continue to mask, everyone should be treated with respect.

“Families have the option to send their children to school with masks,” Wright said. “All districts are going to be respectful of the fact that parents are going to have to make these individual decisions for their children.”

Safeguards like sanitizing, and having masks on standby will still be in effect, Wright said.

“We'll have to wait to see if any changes come out of the New York State Department of Health's guidance, but testing practices within districts will continue for the time being,” he said. “So it's not that all of these mitigation strategies are going to go away right away, it will be a staggered approach.”

The Rochester City School District announced on Tuesday that masks will be optional in school settings as well. Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small said extra masks will be available in buildings, and students can still participate in weekly COVID-19 tests. Rapid tests kits will be available on request.

Monroe County Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza said on Monday that any positive cases that may arise in a classroom will be managed on a case-by-case basis.

"There are many parents on all angles of the spectrum with regard to the amount of risk they're comfortable to take,” Mendoza said. “But I think we'll be, you know, as before, kind of walking through this, feeling our way together.”

He said overall, the transition to optional masking policies is a welcome change.

Noelle E. C. Evans is WXXI's Murrow Award-winning Education reporter/producer.