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Local students mark the first day of masks being optional in school

The commissioner of the state Department of Education reserves the authority to re-implement a mask mandate at any time before June 30th

GLASTONBURY, Conn. — For the first time in over a year, masks were optional inside most public schools across Connecticut. For some, it was a relief, but for others it brought anxiety. School officials told FOX61 they’ve had to remind students to respect everyone’s personal choice. 

Gov. Ned Lamont greeted students outside Glastonbury High School after the dismissal bell Monday. As the students exited, some had masks while others did not. Most students told FOX61 it’s a day they’ve been looking forward to.

“It’s honestly kind of relieving,” said student Michael Litke.

“Yeah I’m really excited not to have to wear masks anymore,” added student Alison Buyers.

RELATED: Hamden BOE will decide on mask mandate Monday night

A mask sign still hangs outside the front of the school. There’s cautious optimism it’ll be a relic of a bygone era.

“This is our new normal going forward,”  Lamont. “I think every one of these kids had a big smile on their face and it was nice to be able to see it.”

In Glastonbury, even though masks were optional, the district still sent all students home with a COVID test kit and asked them to use it over the weekend.

“Indeed, we did find that there were eight cases of COVID found by the test kits that were asymptomatic, we never would have known about it, the families wouldn’t have known about it,” said Dr. Alan Bookman, the Glastonbury Schools superintendent.

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Not all districts handed out test kits. If not for the test kits, eight COVID-positive students could have gone maskless in the school.

“The infection rate is very low so I don’t see any problem coming out of this,” remarked Lamont.

Connecticut was under a COVID school mask mandate for more than a year. Some are concerned that we could see a COVID school vaccine mandate next.

“I think I’ll leave well enough alone for now. We will see what the future brings,” Lamont said.

About 85% of all of Connecticut’s school districts chose to go mask optional. Those who didn’t are mostly the big city districts where vaccination rates tend to be lower.

RELATED: CDC eases mask guidelines for more than 70% of Americans

Now in addition to the new mask policies in school, districts across the state are also scrambling to communicate the new mask guidance on school buses that the CDC changed at the last minute on Friday. The new policy allows students to go maskless on the bus.

The state education commissioner still has the authority to re-impose a mask mandate at any time before June 30th.

Matt Caron is a reporter at FOX61 News. He can be reached at mcaron@fox61.com. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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