Students across the Hudson Valley have the option of going maskless starting today
It was big day for students and teachers in the Hudson Valley and all across the state, as masks are now optional in many schools.
It was the first time in almost two years that students and teachers were able to go to school without wearing a mask if they choose.
Now that state mandates have been lifted, it's up to local counties and districts to decide. So, far it looks as though none of New York's 62 counties are keeping kids masked in school.
State health officials released some guidelines to help navigate through the new mask-optional rule. They apply to students, staff and other adults in school buildings, such as parents watching sports games or volunteering with school activities.
Masks are not required on school buses, although Newburgh school officials are requiring masks on the bus. The new mask-optional rule applies to all school activities such as athletics and music.
However, state health officials say anyone returning to school after being diagnosed with COVID-19 and isolating for five days must wear a mask in school for another five days, and those who have been exposed or potentially exposed should wear a mask for 10 days.
Going into Wednesday, school administrators stressed the importance of being comfortable, saying those who wish to continue wearing a mask should be supported, and the same goes for those who decide to take off the mask.
Some Gorton High School students in Yonkers made the decision to continue wearing masks, saying they felt more comfortable covering up. "I think it's safer with the mask because kids are still getting sick," says student Noah Coates.
But others who went maskless say it gives them hope that we're on the path to normalcy. "It's a leap we have to take to get comfortable with living how we were before, and I'm keeping my mask on me just in case someone starts coughing right next to me. But it's nice that we don't have to wear the mask," says student Carmelo Coleman.