DOYLESTOWN, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- The Central Bucks School District, one of the largest districts in Pennsylvania, voted late Tuesday night to make masks optional for the upcoming school year regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status.
Last week, district officials initially made the announcement in a letter sent to families. The district made it official at its Tuesday meeting.
Despite the final vote, many gathered at the district's administration building hoping to change the minds of board members.
The rally was held hours after the CDC recommended that even vaccinated people should return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the coronavirus is surging.
Citing new information about the ability of the delta variant to spread among vaccinated people, the CDC also recommended indoor masks for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status.
"There's still a threat to anyone who is immunocompromised, and there's no politics about it," said incoming junior student Paree Pasi.
Parent Liz Dooley said, "I don't see why we can't continue to wear a mask for a few more months just to protect people who really need it."
But there were many that were fine with masks being optional.
"I think it should absolutely be optional," said parent Jamie Walker.
"You get anxiety with the mask on, like, you don't want to be there," said incoming senior Tori Green.
"They should be allowed to not wear masks. It's not fair," said Tori's mother, Elieen Green.
Bensalem School District also announced Tuesday masking will be optional for the 2021-22 school year, and the district is not requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination.
"We acknowledge the decisions surrounding the opening of school on August 30, 2021 impact each of you and may engender a wide variety of responses. We remain committed to the health and safety of our students and staff as well as setting the conditions for academic and interpersonal growth. We will continue working to mitigate the risks of spread while simultaneously restoring the quality and continuity of education our students and families deserve," a letter to Bensalem families read.
Most new infections in the U.S. continue to be among unvaccinated people. But "breakthrough" infections, which generally cause milder illness, can occur in vaccinated people. When earlier strains of the virus predominated, infected vaccinated people were found to have low levels of virus and were deemed unlikely to spread the virus much, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said.
But with the delta variant, the level of virus in infected vaccinated people is "indistinguishable" from the level of virus in the noses and throats of unvaccinated people, added Walensky.