Many California students allowed to go maskless at school starting today

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Today will look a lot different for many California kids. The state's mask mandate within public schools expired on Saturday and kids in many districts will have the option to either wear the mask or take it off.

"I kind of want to take my mask off because it's really hard to breathe in the masks and it's really hard to keep them up," said Bella Riordan who is a 4th grader in the Mt. Diablo Unified School District. Riordan will be able to do just that at school today. California's mask mandate for students expired over the weekend and now masks are instead "strongly recommended" inside classrooms.

"I haven't gotten to see my friends full face. I've only gotten to see like half of my friends face for a very long time," says Riordan.

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"I think it should have happened a long time ago personally!" said Bella's mom Jessica.

Not all districts are going with the state guidance and allowing masks to come off though. Oakland Unified is keeping the mandate for all students and San Francisco Unified is allowing middle and high school students to go maskless, but not younger elementary age kids until April 2.

"We're at low risk but the risk is going to even get lower in the upcoming weeks if the models stay on track," says UCSF's Dr. Peter Chin-Hong.

But while many kids we talked with are excited, many are still hesitant to take the mask off.

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"At school I think they should stay on but after we do something like a workout we should take it off or have mask breaks," said Aaron Ozturk who is a 5th grader in the Mt. Diablo Unified School District who will follow state guidance by allowing masks to come off for all ages.

We first spoke with Millbrae Kindergarten teacher Estreilla Raddavero last year as hybrid classes finished up, now another step forward with the option to go maskless.

"I think the majority of my kids will be wearing masks. I know a couple of the kids were really just never comfortable wearing them but I don't know, I won't know until tomorrow," said Raddavero Sunday night. She admits that this has been a tough decision on whether to mask or not, but says she has to lookout for everyone including her family at home.

"Kindergarten especially because they want to see their teachers smile, they want to see the expression when I'm teaching, letters and sounds, but I will be keeping that mask on for the rest of this year. I just feel like that is what I have to do. When things are safer then I will remove it because I do, I like to see people's faces but I want to be safe," says Raddavero.

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