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Reaction from students mixed as NOLA-PS celebrates first day without masks

The mask mandate for New Orleans public schools was lifted Monday, and at Young Audiences Charter School at Lawrence D. Crocker College Prep, the reaction from students and teachers was mixed.

“At this point I’m really used to it,” said seventh-grader Ja’Niya Dabney. “It’s hard to be like, ‘Yeah, you don’t have to wear it anymore.’”

Meanwhile, 8-year-old Carter Harris was ecstatic.

“You can breathe more,” he said. “And it’s easier to talk to [my friends].”

District superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. said the decision to wear a mask or not is ultimately up to families.

“If you’re not comfortable taking your mask off today it’s okay because at the end of the day we want to make sure that all students are comfortable.”

The district’s change in policy follows updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that came out in late February, which says schools should only mandate masks when COVID cases and hospitalizations are high.

If cases and hospitalizations creep back up, Lewis said the district could go from mask-optional back to mandatory.

He said the district’s focus is on maintaining in-person classes and making sure schools don’t have to close again like they did at the start of the pandemic.

Education reporter Aubri Juhasz spoke with WWNO’s Karl Lengel about the district’s new mask optional policy and how kids, parents and teachers are responding.

Background reading

Aubri Juhasz is the education reporter for New Orleans Public Radio. Before coming to New Orleans, she was a producer for National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. She helped lead the show's technology and book coverage and reported her own feature stories, including the surge in cycling deaths in New York City and the decision by some states to offer competitive video gaming to high school students as an extracurricular activity.

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