Merced Union High School District students react to new mask policy

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- Students at Atwater High seemed to be all smiles.

At least their emotions were more noticeable to classmates as an outdoor mask mandate was lifted.

"It's just really amazing to see everybody's faces," says Jordyn Allison. "It's kind of beautiful for us to see your friends again, talk to staff members and be able to read people's facial expressions."

The masks must come back on once they enter classrooms and other buildings on campus.

But the students feel the school year's ending on a high note.

"Just being able to talk, have a bit more normalcy than we've had in the last year," says Zachary Pickle. "I'm really enjoying it."

Once the Merced Union High School District announced the decision to end outdoor mask requirements this past Friday, Superintendent Alan Peterson said word spread quickly through the community.

"It's a huge relief, I think for everyone involved, especially with the heat coming on," he said.

With three weeks left in the school year, student-athletes were also thrilled to be able to compete against other schools again.

Pickle runs the mile, while Jordan plays basketball.

"To have it, honestly, is really amazing," Jordan said. "You look at people that graduated or went to college and you don't play. They look back at their high school years and realize that was the best time of our lives."

Social distancing rules are still being enforced outdoors, and masks remain an option for anyone who wants the extra layer of protection.

"I'm certain there's going to be students and staff walking around with masks on outside and that's fine," Peterson said. "It's a personal decision."

The district has also offered multiple COVID-19 vaccine clinics for staff members, students, and their families.

That includes one in Livingston last week, where more than 100 students showed up for the free shots.
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