Brooklyn’s Poly Prep Makes Masks Optional, Despite State Mandate

Poly Prep Country Day School, an elite, expensive Brooklyn institution, will become the first private school in New York City to no longer require students and staff to wear masks, even as a state mask mandate for schools remains in place until at least Feb. 21.

In an email to parents this week, school officials said that because coronavirus cases citywide and at the school were declining, they would not require students or staff members to wear face coverings starting Monday. The change in policy will apply to both the Lower School campus, in Park Slope, and the Middle and Upper School campus, in Dyker Heights.

“In addition, we have had minimal in-school Covid transmission of the highly contagious Omicron variant,” Sarah Zuercher, the school’s director of health and well-being, said in the email.

A spokesman for the New York State Department of Health said the agency was aware of the school’s policy change and called it a “violation.”

“The state’s mask policy applies to all schools, including private schools,” Jill Montag, the health department’s director of communications, said in an email on Friday. A call to the school was not immediately returned.

The move to lift the requirement comes as Gov. Kathy Hochul announced this week that she would let a rule expire that required businesses to ask people to either show proof of full vaccination or wear masks indoors at all times. That mandate was separate from the rule requiring masks to be worn in schools.

Ms. Hochul has said state officials would reassess the school mask mandate in early March, once students returned from midwinter break. The governors of two neighboring states, New Jersey and Connecticut, have said that their mask mandates for schools would end in the coming weeks.

The Polygon, Poly Prep’s student newspaper, which broke the news thabout the changing policy on Wednesday, noted that all students ages 5 and older are vaccinated, while students ages 16 and up are vaccinated and boosted.

Poly Prep has 1,151 students, according to its website. Yearly tuition ranges from about $32,000 for nursery-school students to about $58,000 for 12th graders.

Ms. Zuercher said in the email to parents that the school would continue to require weekly testing. She said that more than 20 percent of the Poly Prep community had tested positive for the virus since mid-December. “Almost all cases have been mild to asymptomatic with no cases of severe disease or hospitalization,” she said.

Ms. Zuercher also noted that for those who choose to continue wearing masks, high-quality ones like N95s were shown to be “effective,” even around unmasked people.

“We will support each individual’s choice and we will follow up immediately if our mask-optional plans must change,” she said.

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