Parents, others react to schools’ mask policies after Gov. Edwards ends statewide mask mandate

Some school districts ended mask requirements, others keeping them for now
Published: Oct. 27, 2021 at 8:22 PM CDT
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A child wears a mask due to COVID-19 protocols.
A child wears a mask due to COVID-19 protocols.(Jasmin Adous)

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Parents and grandparents reacted to schools’ mask policies a day after Governor John Bel Edwards said schools can opt-out of the mask mandate if they continue to follow CDC quarantine guidelines. And some school districts wasted no time making mask-wearing optional while some kept mask requirements in place, at least for now.

At K-12 schools in New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell said the mask mandate will remain in place for students, faculty, and other staffers.

Dejai Cyres supports that. She was interviewed outside the Martin Luther King Charter School on Caffin Avenue in New Orleans.

“We all know that the Delta variant and other things are still out there but I think it’s a step forward for them to actually get their education like face-to-face and you know be protected at the same time and give them a chance, as well,” said Cyres.

Not far away in St. Bernard Parish, the school district announced that face coverings are now optional for students and staffers.

Henry Gray disagrees with that. He was walking near Chalmette High where his grandson attends school.

“I think they should wear their masks right now because the volume of kids you’ve got in this school I think they ought to be wearing masks,” said Gray.

He said his grandson is vaccinated and will continue wearing a mask to school.

“He wears a mask and he’s vaccinated. My whole family is vaccinated,” said Gray.

Laila Schumacher says she has a 4-year-old who attends school in St. Bernard Parish.

“I think it’s up to parents if they want their kids to stay in masks, they got to tell their teachers to do that; I think the teacher will respect that but if you are comfortable of not wearing it then it’s up to them still,” said Schumacher.

Besides St. Bernard Parish Schools, St. Charles, St. Tammany, Plaquemines, Lafourche, and Terrebonne Parish schools say masks will now be optional.

St. Tammany’s decision came Wednesday evening and an email from the school district’s director of communications Meredith Mendez said:

“Beginning Thursday, October 28, masks are highly recommended but not required in STPPS schools and buildings. The district will support anyone who chooses to wear a mask. Masks will be required for students and adults on school buses as mandated by federal law. The district will continue with safety protocols such as distancing to the greatest extent possible, cleaning and disinfecting, and frequent hand washing. The level of COVID-19 cases will continue to be monitored and guidelines and protocols will be adjusted as needed. Local and national guidance on safety guidelines and protocols will be followed. "

St. John Parish’s school district said it is keeping its mask requirement in place. The parish was heavily damaged by Hurricane Ida and floodwaters.

In an email, it said:

“St. John the Baptist Parish Schools will continue to require masks and follow quarantine guidelines.

1.) The administration team will continue to communicate with our medical partners Oschner and their representatives.

2.) We will continue to track and report COVID cases in our district.

3.) Since we have just reopened schools after the hurricane it is best to monitor our COVID data and then determine if it is wise to issue staff and parents a mask survey within the next two weeks. The survey will gather input on whether masks should be required or optional in our district offices and schools. "

The Archdiocese of New Orleans says masks are now optional in all of its schools, except for those in New Orleans.

Its statement reads:

“All of the Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of New Orleans have followed and will continue to follow the CDC guidelines regarding quarantines. There are no changes there, nor are there any changes to COVID mitigation measures in place in our schools, such as encouraging personal hygiene, social distancing when possible, and monitoring health of the school community. Therefore, masks are no longer required in Catholic schools outside of Orleans Parish. Parents and families who chose to send their children to school with masks are welcome to do so.”

Jefferson Parish Public Schools says, “We are reviewing the guidance released by the Governor today with our healthcare partners, and will share additional information about our plans later this week. Our priority is to provide the best learning environment possible for students while keeping everyone safe. Just like we’ve done since the start of the pandemic, we will continue to work with medical experts to ensure our mitigation measures prioritize the safety of students and employees and are appropriate for the current health situation.”

And while it could change soon, currently kids under age 12 are not being vaccinated against COVID-19 in the U.S.

“Sooner or later, they’re going to have to take them away but right now while it’s up, while it’s up I think we should wear them,” said Gray.

Cyres takes comfort in knowing masks are still required in New Orleans.

“It makes me feel safe and at ease that my child gets his education, you know, with that extra safety precaution,” she said.

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