FAIRHOPE, Ala. (WKRG) — The first day of school for Baldwin County students in 2022 is over. Unlike the start of the school year, Baldwin county begins the second half of the school year without a mask mandate. This despite rising COVID cases in the region.

It’s a cold morning to make the half-mile walk to Fairhope Elementary as part of the daily “Walking School Bus.” Most of the parents I spoke with say they appreciate the superintendent leaving the mask decision to them.

“I’m totally okay with it, I think parents should have a choice whether they want to mask their child or not,” said parent Olivia Autrey. It’s a complicated issue and, for a lot of parents, their biggest concern is keeping schools open.

“At this point, it’s a tough call, I think it’s a personal choice very everybody and we’ve talked to our son about distancing but it’s good for him to be in school,” said parent Nicole Miller. Families say they’re doing what they can to keep their kids warm outside and safe in the school.

“We have taken the precautions to get our kids vaccinated so we feel good about it being an option for our kids,” said parent Molly Spain. Some of the kids I spoke with in Fairhope say learning is just better without a mask.

“It’s like you have to stay six feet apart and people can’t really hear you, because you’re behind a mask and they’re like ‘huh huh what did you say’? So you can’t like whisper to somebody,” said student Brody Miller as he mimics a mask over his face with cupped hands. The superintendent says their goal is to keep schools open and operating and they’ll monitor illness outbreaks and make changes as needed.