Children have held the weight of this pandemic on their shoulders for long enough. I am proud of them for stepping up to keep their community safe when it was necessary, but that moment has passed and continuing non-sensical mitigation strategies is absurd at this point. I am a first grade teacher and mother of two young children in public schools. My students and my own children have done everything asked of them. They have missed their own birthday parties, field trips, field days, missed a family wedding out of town, and received both vaccines among numerous other things. Are these things worth it to keep people safe? Absolutely. But science and simple math are proving that these sacrifices are no longer necessary. Neither of my children have seen a normal school year yet. They have no memories of seeing a teacher smile at them. Think about that. I fear that we are far underestimating the impact of social interaction, facial cues, speech/articulation and language issues as a result of children being masked for years. I am CERTAIN that we are far underestimating the impacts of reading and language instruction as a result of masks. It is well-proven fact that an extremely important part of early phonemic awareness and phonics acquisition (the most important building blocks of reading and strongest indicators of future reading proficiency) is hearing the nuances in sound and seeing the position of the mouth when making sounds. My students need to see my face. They need to see me smile. They need to see my expression as I’m reading aloud to them. You cannot have legislation for the science of reading making its way through the house and senate (finally!) and ignore the science behind these facts. DOLI regulations are completely out of line with current research and recommendations from the rest of the country. Teachers are exhausted. We have stepped up to do an already difficult job in a nearly impossible way and we deserve to take our masks off. Do not let a small group of teachers who are “scared” be louder than those who want to put our children first. If anyone thinks germs are new to primary teachers, they are sadly mistaken. There are several childhood diseases that can be dangerous if given to pregnant women (fifths disease, etc).. I assumed those risks when I worked with 20+ children every day throughout both of my pregnancies. I did not refrain from hugging and teaching my students to the best of my ability because of that risk to my personal safety. I challenge anyone to explain how this is different. It’s time to move on. I’ve done my part - if people want to continue to wear KN95s to protect themselves, they can do theirs. This is urgent for our schools and should not be put off a moment longer.