Change in School Mask Rules Sets Off Scramble

Education leaders are awaiting further information after state health commissioner Howard Zucker said late Friday afternoon  schools would no longer have to require masks as of Monday.

Based on Zucker’s letter, those who are vaccinated would not have to wear masks, while those who aren’t would be “strongly encouraged” but not required to do so.

Dr. David Bennardo, South Huntington schools superintendent, said, “Unfortunately, the Friday afternoon nature of Dr. Zucker’s letter  makes it difficult if not impossible to get answers to the numerous” questions educators have.   He said superintendents are reaching out for answers this weekend.

New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallotta said, “Announcing on a Friday afternoon that masks will now be optional for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people in schools starting Monday — with only three weeks remaining in the school year — is whiplash-inducing news. Short of any additional guidance from the state or the CDC before Monday, we implore school districts to closely evaluate local conditions and connect with their educators and parents to decide the best course of action for protecting their school community.”

Commack Superintendent Donald James told Newsday that Commack students would most likely be able to attend without masks as of Monday.

The new rules also apply to camps.

Zucker’s letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, read in part, “In both settings, as a minimum state-wide guidance:
• Indoors, mask use will be strongly encouraged but not required for students, campers, and staff/ teachers /counselors who are not fully vaccinated.
• Outdoors, masks are not required; students, campers, and staff/teachers/counselors who are not fully vaccinated are “encouraged” to wear a mask in certain higher-risk circumstances.
• Both indoors and outdoors, students, campers, and staff who are fully vaccinated do not need to
wear masks.
• Schools and camps may choose to implement stricter standards.




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