RPS approves updated mask policy for 2021-22 school year

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(ABC 6 News)- -The Rochester school board unanimously approved a revised mask policy that requires masks in all facilities for the 2021-22 school year.

This comes after Interim Superintendent Kent Pekel approached the board last week with a list of recommendations about going back to school safely.

The policy requires all students older than two years of age as well as all staff and all other adults to wear face coverings inside all RPS facilities and on all forms of transportation. The policy recommends but does not require masks outdoors on RPS grounds.

This policy becomes effective at 11:59 pm on Tuesday August 17.

Previous policy passed stated masks were required for students aged 2-12 and recommended but not required for everyone who is vaccinated.

Exceptions to this requirement will be made based upon health status and other factors as outlined in School Board Policy 808.

RELATED: RPS Supt. proposes mask mandate, other COVID-19 mitigations in memo to board members

"We must keep our schools open. That is the bottom line imperative. We know that while children are less likely to get it than adults we now know they can get it. In fact the CDC said in no uncertain terms quote children are at risk for severe COVID-19," Pekel said.

Parents and residents who spoke during the public comments portion of the meeting mostly showed support for the mandate.

"We need to have these tools available to us so that we are safe until we’re all vaccinated and we can move on," one Rochester Public Schools parent said.

As for the rest of the Safe and Open plan, Pekel says the district is sending out a survey to gauge public opinion on it. Then, put together a revised and finalized plan on August 26.

At the meeting, board members also discussed topics like the role of police officers in schools and how they’re going to be tracking disciplinary data this school year.

Classes are set to begin on August 30.

This decision follows Rochester Mayor Kim Norton’s Declaration of Local Emergency Tuesday morning, requiring masks be required in all indoor public settings where medically vulnerable people and children under the age of 12 may be present. The declaration is in effect until Friday morning unless the City Council approves a resolution to extend it when it meets on Friday.