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Last Wednesday marked the first day that students and staff in the White Plains City School District (WPCSD) did not have to wear masks, following Gov. Kathy Hochul’s announcement that the mandate was lifted in schools statewide.
According to Dr. Joseph Ricca, Superintendent of Schools, the feeling in WPCSD schools following the mandate being lifted was very positive.
Dr. Ricca shared at the WPCSD Reopening Committee meeting March 2 that he observed a roughly 50-50 split between those without masks and those still wearing masks when visiting schools throughout the district that day.
“That’s what we expected,” Dr. Ricca said, underscoring that the district is supportive of both choices and the ability for an individual’s comfort level to change day-to-day. “It is great no matter what decision our children or our team members make.”
Dr. Ricca fielded questions during the meeting, noting any key updates to COVID-19 protocols.
Aside from barriers that were previously in WPCSD schools as an additional level of mitigation being removed in the coming weeks, Dr. Ricca said many safety measures to protect students and staff are still in place.
“You’re not going to hear that we’re making any dramatic changes to anything right now other than obviously the mask mandate has shifted,” Dr. Ricca said.
The Test-to-Stay program will remain in place, as will testing opportunities and contact tracing.
Dr. Ricca noted that students are no longer required to wear masks on school buses, a decision that came with the overall mask mandate being lifted in schools.
The percentage of students that have been vaccinated against COVID-19 in each school within the district, Dr. Ricca highlighted, is not known due to it not being a requirement. However, Dr. Ricca added, some parents and guardians do opt to tell the district.
Dr. Ricca underscored that, while the mask mandate has been lifted, the county will continue to monitor the CDC COVID-19 Community Levels to determine whether it is in a green, yellow or red zone.
At the time of the meeting, Westchester County’s community level for COVID-19 was green, which indicates a low level of transmission, according to the CDC’s new classification framework.
“If we start to see numbers spiking again in our region, we will take the appropriate action,” Dr. Ricca said. “We do have the ability to do that.”
Bailey has journalism experience covering local news in Westchester and Putnam counties and New York City on topics related to LGBTQ+ issues, women’s rights, climate change, the environment, and local politics. They have been a full-time reporter with Examiner Media since July 2021. Read more details from Bailey’s bio here. Read Bailey’s archived work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/baileyhosfelt/