Her Darien kindergartner has only known masks in school. She cried when the district voted to lift the mandate.

DARIEN — For Catherine Palazola’s three daughters, the return to school Monday marked a reason to celebrate.

Palazola’s daughters — in kindergarten, second and fourth grade at Holmes Elementary School — did not need to wear a mask to class for the first time in over a year.

“They were cheering when we heard the Board of Education decision,” Palazola said. “And I actually started crying because it also signals that we’re trying to go back to a somewhat normal life. My kindergartner never went to school without a mask on here, so she’s never really seen her teacher.”

Earlier this month, Darien Public Schools implemented a mask-optional policy beginning Feb. 28, the day Gov. Ned Lamont’s statewide school mask mandate expired.

Palazola said many parents have welcomed the move, following months of much parent-led opposition to the masking requirements.

In a memo sent to parents and staff last week, Superintendent Alan Addley said schools will relax many other COVID-19 guidelines along with masking. The district will not conduct contact tracing or social distancing and will return to pre-COVID-19 lunch practices, Addley said.

In an update that came Friday, Addley added that masks will also be optional on school buses, following news that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had updated their policy to not require masks on student transportation.

“This is good news as it aligns with the District’s recent decision to make mask wearing optional for students, staff and visitors,” Addley said.

A majority of teachers and students took advantage of the mask-optional policy Monday, Addley said. He said across the district, only around “10 to 20 percent” of teachers and students were wearing masks, though that number will likely change over the coming weeks.

“It will likely fluctuate on any given day, some people may choose to wear them tomorrow or wear them at certain times during the day,” Addley said.

Palazola said many families she knows have made the same choice as her, deciding against their children wearing masks to school, though on Monday morning she noticed some children walking into class with masks on.

As long as the district supports the mask-optional policy, Palazola said her children will be maskless.

“I think the emotional benefits of not wearing masks outweigh any risks,” Palazola said. “I feel like they’re young and the impact of wearing masks hasn’t been great for them, especially with girls and the social issues with it. It makes sense for us.”