PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — For the first time in two years, students and teachers in Providence are no longer required to wear face masks.
The district decided to update its mask policy upon receiving the results of a survey sent to families last month. Of the 3,000 people who responded to the survey, nearly 70% wanted masks to be optional, according to the district.
Most Rhode Island school districts dropped their mandates in March, when Gov. Dan McKee lifted the statewide mandate and allowed districts to decide whether to make masks optional or mandatory.
But Providence, which is controlled by the state, kept the mandate in place. R.I. Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green at the time cited Providence’s low vaccination rate — only 34% of students — as part of the decision. She noted that other districts such as Barrington had high vaccination rates in the 80% range.
Loveile Okpara said she’s glad masks are now optional for students, even though her son still has his reasons for wanting to wear one.
“I just asked my son, ‘do you still want to wear a face mask?’ and he said ‘yeah mom, some of the kids, they cough and they touch things,'” Okpara said. “I said “OK, if you want to wear a mask, that is fine with me.'”
Jose Roche tells 12 News he and his daughter are taking a more cautious approach.
“You never know if it’s coming back of if it’s staying away … so I’d rather be safe than sorry,” Roche said of the virus. “My daughter still keeps wearing her mask and I’ll keep wearing my mask.”
Other parents believe the face mask requirement should’ve been retired a long time ago.
While the face mask policy is changing, other precautions aren’t. The district plans on continuing to offer free vaccination clinics and testing to students, teachers and staff, as well as improving ventilation and sanitation in all school buildings.