CLEVELAND — The summer vacation season is in full swing, but local school districts are already looking toward the fall semester and how some will welcome back students after more than a year of pandemic learning.
Over the last few days, districts in Northeast Ohio have released return to school plans for parents and students.
In Amherst, junior high school students were taking summer classes, but a few were already thinking about the year ahead.
"I don't really care what happens as long as I get to go to school," said eighth-grader Elise Bedo while walking alongside her friend Mady Rivera.
"I don't care if some people wear masks and some people don't," Rivera said about people coming back to classes in the fall, potentially maskless for the first time since March 2020.
School district leaders are not making blanket mandates for returning staff and students.
"We're taking the stance of: it's really a personal decision," said Michael Molnar, the assistant superintendent for Amherst Exempted Village Schools. He said parents and families have a lot of options, but masks will not be mandatory, unlike last year when the district dictated terms. He said the district is following updated guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control.
"This year it's going to be more of a conversation with the classroom teacher," Molnar said about what parents need to do after they make decisions for their kids.
Leaving options open means some kids and teachers may still have a masks on and ask for space in school.
"We're not going to have separate classrooms for those students," Molnar said. "Everyone is going to be in the classrooms assigned to them."
Amherst isn't the only district thinking about what the fall semester will look like. In Parma, masks will not be mandated either. A press release from the school says students will still be encouraged to stay socially distanced, especially for elementary students who aren't eligible for the vaccine yet.
"If I have to, I'll wear it," Rivera said about masking during the upcoming school year. "It doesn't bother me at all."
Schools cannot mandate vaccinations either.
"We've kind of made this a parent decision and we've kept our hands off of it," Molnar said.
Classes will look similar in Akron. The district said it is following the CDC guidance on mask-wearing. For students going back to school, it's all about giving each other a little space to make decisions for themselves.
"I think people should respect people's choices," Bedo said. "But I think it would be best for people who don't get vaccinated to wear masks."