Updated 8:30 pm: The Huntington school district will stick with its mask mandate Monday when school when students return to school.
New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker had sent education leaders scrambling late Friday afternoon with a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that said that as of Monday, 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. But his letter also said districts could set stricter standards.
Some school superintendents were reportedly working through the weekend to clarify their districts’ response.
But Sunday afternoon, Huntington school superintendent James W, Polansky notified the community that masks would still be required. He wrote,
…Existing mask requirements in Huntington will remain in place until further notice. It is entirely possible that additional information or an Order will emerge tomorrow or shortly thereafter, announcing formal changes to NYSDOH guidance on the matter.
With less than three weeks remaining in the school year, the timing of changes to state guidance is concerning, as we clearly do not wish the final weeks of classes and events compromised for any student or staff member. Nonetheless, in that we have closely aligned our plans with governing New York State and Suffolk County mandates and recommendations throughout the pandemic, I will recommend to our Board of Education (BOE) tomorrow evening that we continue to align our practices with the latest NYSDOH guidance. In that a change in mask-wearing requirements represents a substantive modification to the District’s reopening plan, it will require Board ratification.
Please understand that beyond the situation related to masks, and assuming no changes to State or County directives in other regards, current safety protocol established in Huntington will remain firmly in place for the duration of the school year, including but not limited to daily health screenings, social distancing and contact tracing.”
The decision came after a letter was received from the state Education Department that read, in part, “SED has been in communication with Executive staff regarding the attached letter from Dr. Howard Zucker, New York State Commissioner of Health. According to conversations with Executive staff,
the intent of this letter was to obtain a response from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) regarding differing standards for summer camps and schools; it has not changed any existing arrangements. Therefore, schools should continue to operate under their existing procedures until further notice. No changes have been, or will be, made by the Executive until after Monday June 7 to afford the CDC an opportunity to respond to the letter.”
South Huntington superintendent Dr. David Bennardo wrote Sunday that
As previously stated, we have serious concerns about an announcement of this importance to our community being dropped on us at 4 PM on Friday with no ability to clarify the numerous questions we are receiving from our constituents. The bottom line is that we owe it to you, our parents, students, and staff to get things right and have accurate answers to share. To this end, we have written a letter requesting crystal-clear clarity from the Suffolk County Health Department, which will be sent at once electronically and then hand-delivered by courier at 8 AM tomorrow morning.
Please note that the latest communication from the New York State Education Department, along with Suffolk County Health officials, have the most direct oversight upon our practices and policies.
In the meantime, as of this afternoon, “Sunday“ at 2 PM, we have been advised by the state education department that nothing has changed relative to masks in our schools, and we should await clarification from NYS officials. Please trust that we’re going to keep pushing for answers as we understand that these decisions are very important to the people we serve. Our team wants very
much to respect all opinions and do our very best relative to student and staff comfort, health, and safety.
The Commack school district told Newsday on Friday that it would drop the mask requirement as of Monday.
The Elwood district posted a note on its website that read, ”
As you are likely aware, on Friday, June 4, Dr. Zucker, Commissioner of the New York Department of Health (NYDOH) issued a letter to the CDC announcing the State is looking to ease mask restrictions in schools. A full copy of the letter can be read here.
The District remains committed to following the NYDOH guidance, and is currently awaiting confirmation if this request by the NYDOH will be approved and in place for Monday, June 7. Further information will be shared as it becomes available.
We are hopeful that Dr. Zucker’s letter to the CDC will translate into updated guidance that will help us bring parent/staff choice to school buildings. We thank you for your patience as we await this important information.
No further information was immediately available.