Broadalbin-Perth school board calls for state to drop indoor mask mandate

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The Broadalbin-Perth school board on Tuesday called on state officials to drop indoor mask requirements for students, noting the board’s “firm opinion” was to not enforce a mask mandate next year.

The school board joins Mohonasen and other districts in the state that have taken a clear stand against indoor mask mandates after state health officials earlier this month floated the prospect of dropping the mask requirement before walking back the idea days later. 

“The purpose of this letter is to express our demand to free our students and employees from masks,” the board wrote in the letter posted to the district website Tuesday, following a special board meeting Monday night. 

The letter highlights the discomfort of wearing masks in hot school buildings and the strangeness of not seeing the faces of teachers and classmates, but the board most stridently calls out the inconsistency in maintaining school-based mask requirements while lifting them elsewhere.

“Younger people are less vulnerable to COVID and less likely to transmit it to others,” the board wrote in the letter. “Yet Yankee stadium is filled with thirty thousand unmasked adults and children in Broadalbin-Perth schools are forced to wear masks.”

The letter suggests that the inertia of months of requiring masks – a rule that has been in place since the start of the school year – has led officials to maintain the mask rule for the remainder of the year. The board wrote that some people may think “it’s only another week” left in school.

“We disagree!” the board countered. “It’s a week in the heat wearing masks against logic and reason.”

It’s not clear from the letter how far the board is willing to push its disagreement over the current status of state guidelines. While the letter notes that the board has given the superintendent “no instructions at this moment,” the letter also suggests the board makes clear its position against enforcing mask requirements next school year.

“It is the firm opinion of this board that we should not enforce any such rule [requiring masks indoors],” according to the letter.

Earlier this month state Commissioner of Health Howard Zucker in a letter to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated state health officials planned to drop both indoor and outdoor mask-wearing requirements in schools unless federal officials objected. The letter, which was widely reported as a signal of an imminent change to mask requirements, stirred widespread confusion among educators, students and families. Gov. Andrew Cuomo days later dismissed the confusion and said only the outdoor mask requirement would be lifted, highlighting the short time before the end of the school year.

But the confusion further enflamed growing agitation and frustration over the mask requirements, which some of the most strident critics have likened to child abuse. A Fulton County parents group has been organizing in a Facebook group for months against mask requirements and other health precautions the parents argue are unnecessary and harmful to children. 

The Mohonasen school board earlier this month met for a special Saturday meeting to pass a resolution calling on the state to lift the indoor mask requirement, and Mohonasen Superintendent Shannon Shine said he thinks it is safe to stop requiring masks in schools. 

“To serve the best interests of our children, the Mohonasen Board of Education petitions the New York State Department of Health to immediately allow K-12 schools to make their own policy decision pertaining to the advisability of requiring masks for their students,” according to the Mohonasen resolution.

(Mohonasen and Broadalbin-Perth officials indicated they would allow students and staff to still wear masks if they wanted to but don’t think it should be required.) 

Educators across the state for months have been calling on state officials to update school guidance ahead of next school year to address various issues, including student spacing requirements, especially on buses, and when and where masks will be required, if at all. Those specifics remain to be seen.

But the Broadalbin-Perth school board is calling for quick action, noting that they plan to host summer school instruction and other activities in the district in the coming months and do not want to require masks.  

“We are duly elected citizens of our community who volunteer largely to continuously answer one question: What is best for kids?” according to the Broadalbin letter. “We have enough information and perspective to answer this question now. Take off their masks.”

Categories: Fulton Montgomery Schoharie, News

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