Twenty parents spoke about the Valley Central School District’s indoor mask mandate at the board of education meeting on Aug. 23. Parents were overwhelmingly against their children wearing masks in school.
On Aug. 24, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s first day in office, she announced a new, comprehensive plan to help ensure a safe, productive return to schools this fall in the midst of rising COVID-19 cases fueled by the Delta variant. As part of this plan, Hochul has directed the New York State Department of Health to institute a universal mask requirement inside all school buildings, public and private, as determined necessary at the discretion of the commissioner.
Gov. Hochul will also pursue options to mandate vaccines for school employees or require weekly testing in the absence of vaccines, and will continue to work with the Department of Health, education stakeholders and the Legislature on establishing the mandate.
“As Governor, my priorities are now the priorities of the people of New York - and right now that means fighting the Delta variant,” Hochul announced on her website. “My number one priority is getting children back to school and protecting the environment so they can learn safely. I am immediately directing the Department of Health to institute universal masking for anyone entering our schools, and we are launching a Back to School COVID-19 testing program to make testing for students and staff widely available and convenient. We are also working to require vaccinations for all school personnel with an option to test out weekly, and we are going to accomplish all of this by working in partnership with all levels of government.”
Valley Central will return to 100 percent in-person learning on Sept. 2.
“The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has been emphatic in stating that children should return to full-time in-person learning in the fall with layered prevention strategies in place,” Marianne Serratore, COVID-19 coordinator and assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, stated in the district’s 2021-2022 Back to School Plan. “According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, remote learning highlighted inequities in education, was detrimental to the educational attainment of students of all ages and exacerbated the mental health crisis among children and adolescents.
Therefore, returning to full-time in-person learning is a priority for the Valley Central School District.”
As recommended by the CDC, all Valley Central teachers, staff, students and visitors will wear masks in school buildings regardless of vaccination status. Everyone must also wear a mask while on a school bus, regardless of vaccination status. However, masks do not need to be worn outdoors.
At last Monday’s school board meeting, Amy Rossi contended that masks are not effective at protecting against COVID-19.
“These facemasks provide zero protection from any virus as we’ve all heard the back of the box tells you very clearly it does not prevent virus transmission,” she said. “VC has yet to provide any parents with data regarding the efficacy of the masks. All we’re being told is the CDC says so, that’s what we’re gonna do.”
Marc Carassone feels that children should not be subjected to wearing masks in school because they do not have to wear them in the general public.
“So after they leave school I can take them somewhere and we can sit down and walk around normal but when they go to school, that’s what they have to endure,” he said. “What kid would like school?”
Mark Baker is against the school’s mask mandate because facial recognition is an important part of a child’s development.
“I don’t agree with my child, she’s six years old, having to wear a mask full time in school,” he said. “It’s not healthy for her.”
Jeff VanZandt felt that the district should make mask wearing indoors optional, just as the Washingtonville school district did prior to the governor’s mandate.
“What’s the difference between the air in this school and the air in Washingtonville,” he said.
Several parents also felt that wearing masks in school buildings is detrimental to a child’s health. Wearing masks can cause difficulty breathing, especially for people with asthma.
Ken O’Brien was the lone parent who spoke in favor of the district’s mask mandate.
“I want to thank the Valley Central School District for taking the CDC guidelines and protecting our staff, faculty, students and more importantly your families, all of our families,” he said. “Because I’m sure I’m not the only one who has someone living under my roof who cannot get vaccinated, who cannot take the chance of getting sick.”
Serratore noted that the back to school plan allows for students to obtain the best education possible while staying safe.
“At Valley Central, our primary commitment is to the students and families we serve,” she wrote in the plan. “Our priority is providing a robust education while keeping students, staff and families safe and healthy.”