Masks are now optional in all Long Beach schools and buses for students and staff, as of Wednesday. The decision came after Gov. Hochul announced that the indoor mask mandate for schools was being lifted.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jennifer Gallagher sent an open letter to families making the announcement.
The school board updated the reopening plan they released earlier in the school year to make sure that their own mask mandate ended when the states did, according to Gallagher. However, the mandate could not end if Covid numbers were not decreasing.
“It is certainly wonderful news that Covid numbers have decreased enough to allow our students and staff to safely remove their masks if they choose to do so,” Gallagher said in the open letter.
There has been a total of 9,545 confirmed Covid cases in Long Beach, with 31 new cases from February 15 to 22. The Covid numbers for the schools were not supplied.
Gallagher shared an email from a parent in the district who raised a question on if students will feel comfortable with the new mandate-lifting. The unnamed parent mentioned students may feel uncomfortable taking off their masks if they got accustomed to using them and may also feel uncomfortable if they are wearing one but no one else is. The parent said they hope the change will not alienate some students.
Gallagher addressed the possibility of uncomfortability and asked for parents to talk with their children about their mask-wearing choice as a family and “about respecting those who may have different choices.”
The change will probably take some getting used to for students and staff, but Gallagher said she knows “that the community will rise to this occasion and support our children as we turn a new page on this pandemic.”