Trumbull kids ‘rose to the occasion’ on first day of school mask choice

TRUMBULL — Though Monday represented a seismic shift in COVID-19 protocols at many schools, including those in Trumbull, Gary Kunschaft said it felt like any other day.

Kunschaft is principal at Daniels Farm School, which, like all Trumbull Public Schools, went mask optional starting Monday.

Trumbull Superintendent of Schools Martin Semmel confirmed the end of the mask mandate last week. Originally, students were supposed to still be required to wear masks on the school bus, but Semmel said, as of Monday morning, masks were optional on buses as well.

Despite the new policy, Kunschaft said, things were business as usual in Daniels Farm on Monday.

“The first day without mandatory mask-wearing went very well,” he said. “One wouldn’t know that there was a change, as students came into school as happy and prepared to learn as always. Families and staff were glad to have the option to wear or not wear a mask.”

Kunschaft wouldn’t say what percentage of the school population opted to go maskless as “it would potentially put pressure on the masked or un-masked.” Semmel said school staff would not be counting the number of staff and students who chose to go maskless.

At Daniels Farm, Kunschaft said, staff members were ready to help students who might experience anxiety due to the change “but we did not find this necessary.”

Things also went smoothly at Hillcrest Middle School, said principal Bryan Rickert. “There were no issues at all,” he said. “Kids, as they have been since March 2020, rose to the occasion.”

He said, anecdotally, it appeared that 35 to 45 percent of people at the school were wearing masks on Monday, and everyone seemed to treat each other with dignity, regardless of whether they wore a face covering.

“I made an announcement this morning to be respectful of each other’s mask choice,” Rickert said.

Officials have been hammering home the point of respecting other people’s decisions for a while. As part of his message confirming the lift of the mask mandate, Semmel said “teachers and staff will reinforce that mask choice is a personal one and that mean-spirited behavior around those choices is not acceptable in our schools.”

Kunschaft emphasized respect at Daniels Farm as well.

“We will continue to teach students that individuals have the right to make choices that best suit their needs and beliefs,” he said. “We respect this ideal and treat each other kindly, as who we are on the inside is much more important than what we look like on the outside.”