WRIGHT TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Officials at a Luzerne County School District getting push back from parents regarding a plan to separate masked and unmasked students in its elementary schools.

The plan which was supposed to be in place Tuesday has been pulled back because of pressure from parents. The controversy has been simmering in the Crestwood School District for the past several days.

It all has to do with a plan to seat masked students in one part of the classroom and unmasked in another part of the classroom.

District officials insist the intent was not to separate students but to help keep them safe from COVID.

“The concern I have right now is the separation of the children between masked and unmasked,” said Erik Kemmerer, a parent.

Kemmerer’s 8-year-old daughter is a second-grade student at Rice Elementary School. She does not wear a mask. Crestwood is a parent’s choice district when it comes to mask-wearing which Kemmerer supports. But he does not support the district’s decision to separate the masked and unmasked students.

“If they are in the front or back if they put unmasked in the back that could have an impact on learning,” stated Kemmerer.

Kemmerer says he is concerned about division among students.

“We know how kids are. Are they going to treat each other different?” explained Kemmerer.

However, the superintendent of schools, Robert Mehalick says the plan was to add another layer of COVID safety inside the classroom and to follow CDC guidelines which calls for six feet of distance between masked and unmasked individuals.

“So this of course is an empty classroom envisioning a classroom of students on one side the distance of six feet will be right in the middle between the masked and unmasked,” stated Mehalick.

Mehalick says the plan was to place students on either side of the classroom.

“If I have a student unmasked that would have tested positive. I could immediately eliminate anybody who’s six feet away too close contact trace that was the entire intent. The same way we do it in our lunch room,” explained Mehalick.

But he sent an email to teachers in the elementary schools to revert back to the original seating plan for students.

“We heard from parents and i respect from the parents. I’ve heard again.. I stand by there was never any intent to do anything more than to limit the number of students that will need to quarantine if there should be close contact,” stated Mehalick.

Mehalick insists the plan was to keep students as safe as possible from COVID but as of now, the plan is history.