AMSTERDAM – With the start of the school year less than a month away, mask mandates were a focal point of discussion at Wednesday’s Greater Amsterdam School District school board meeting at Amsterdam High School.
During his report to the board, Superintendent Richard Ruberti said that he has been working with Montgomery County Public Health Director Sara Boerenko and other Montgomery County school districts to develop a multi-tiered plan for dealing with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as well as guidelines for mask wearing.
“The situation is still fluid, so we’ve been working on a flexible, tiered approach to our plans,” Ruberti said. “With no state mandates so far this year, it’s the choice of each district to follow the recommendations of the county health department.”
Ruberti also said that, as of now, remote learning will not be an option this year.
“The goal is to get children back in the buildings in the safest way possible,” he said.
With current Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul set to replace Gov. Andrew Cuomo next week, guidance from the state regarding mask policies has been limited.
Hochul said Wednesday that there likely will be a mandate, but until she becomes governor, nothing is official.
“It’s better to be safe than sorry,” board President Dr. Nellie Bush said. “We want children to come back to school safely with the precautions that have to be in place.”
The lone speaker during the public comment portion of the meeting was Christina Morley, who also is a teacher’s aide in the district.
Morley said the district should allow parents the ability to decide whether to mask their children and should offer a waiver to parents who choose not to mask their children to sign.
Morley said that she believed that masks were harmful to children and to the learning process.
Morley cited Dr. Dan Stock, a functional medicine physician in Hamilton County, Indiana, whose claims about COVID have been debunked as misinformation by several national media outlets, including The Associated Press and USA Today.
As part of its preparation, the district has been working to install MERV 11 air filters throughout its buildings in time for the start of the school year, but with districts around the country seeking them, supplies are limited.
The board scheduled its next meeting for Aug. 27 at 6 p.m. in the media room at Amsterdam High School. The board is hoping to make its final decision on mask mandates at that time pending further guidance from the state.
“The sooner we decide, the better,” Ruberti said.
In other board news:
Patrick Longo, member relations manager for the New York State School Boards Association, was in attendance at the meeting to present former school board member John Bottisti a certificate of appreciation for his service.
The board also accepted the resignation of board member Deana Mancini, who recently moved out of the district. The board will advertise to fill the vacancy and will seek letters of interest from potential replacements.
District project manager Mike Greco provided an update on the $24 million capital project at Lynch Literacy Academy, saying that the building would be ready in time for the first day of school.
Ruberti told the board that the district recently received a $10,000 grant from Dollar General that will be used for the district’s literacy program as well as a $2,000 grant from Community Bank that will be used for cameras.