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Brooklyn’s Poly Prep Reverses Plan to Make Masks Optional

Poly Prep Country Day School, an elite, expensive Brooklyn institution, will continue to require students and staff to wear masks in school, reversing a decision to make masks optional starting Monday.

A statewide mask mandate for schools remains in place until at least Feb. 21. Officials at Poly Prep, which had been the first New York City school to make masks optional despite the mandate, said in an email to parents on Friday afternoon that they had received guidance from the state and city health departments that the policy shift was “not permissible under current state- and city-wide restrictions.”

The school said it would delay the policy shift and asked parents to make sure their children were masked starting on Monday.

“Please continue to send students to school with masks on Monday, as has been the policy throughout this year,” Sarah Zuercher, the school’s director of health and well-being, said in the email.

Earlier this week, school officials had 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 was going to apply to both the Lower School campus, in Park Slope, and the Middle and Upper School campus, in Dyker Heights.

Before the rollback, a spokeswoman for the New York State Department of Health had described the school’s policy change as a “violation.”

We worked with the school and the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and the school agreed to delay its plan to no longer require masks until such a policy is permitted,” the spokeswoman, Jill Montag, said on Friday. “We are glad they decided to do the right thing.”

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 about 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.

In the email on Wednesday announcing that masks would be made optional, Ms. Zuercher had said that the school would continue to require weekly testing.

She also 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.

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