Clifton Park

Shen school chief: students adjusting well to mask-optional environment

Sign reading Shenendehowa Central School District

CLIFTON PARK – A week into the state’s lifting of the facemask mandate in public schools, there’s been a noticeable co-mingling of students who continue to wear them on their own accord with those who are enjoying their newfound maskless freedom.

“We have kids who have masks on, walking down the hallway talking to kids who don’t have masks on,” Shenendehowa Central School District Superintendent Oliver Robinson told the Board of Education Tuesday, in wake of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s allowance for facemasks to be optional in public schools as of March 2, two years into the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s often said that the kids are very resilient and they make the adjustments accordingly, and I think they certainly have done that,” Robinson added.

Thus far, there has been no report of an uptick in COVID cases or “implications” as a result of the unmasking of students in the public schools here, Robinson said.

“Which is a good thing because we know that the low infection rate was a major criteria for moving towards that direction in the first place,” the superintendent said, adding the district will continue to monitor situations.

The debate about unmasking students grew polarizing and “heated” in this district and others, including during an August 2021 Board of Education meeting in which hostilities were exchanged.

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Soon after, Robinson sent a letter to parents aiming to address confusion about outdoor mask breaks that were given to elementary students.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Robinson said he sent board members “vignettes from some comments” about the mask-optional environment. Feedback continues to be positive, he said.

During the meeting, a student representative told board members he “forgot how amazing it was to be taught without (masks).”

Kellan Gunner, an 11th grader, said daily interactions and class discussions are better without the requirement to wear masks.

“It just feels like a bigger sense of normal,” he said.

In a COVID-related matter, the district continued to invest in the air quality of school buildings, unanimously awarding a one-year contract of $16,185 to a local company to supply the district with air filters with minimum efficiency reporting values.

John W. Danforth Co. a mechanical contractor in Clifton Park, was awarded the contract.

The district spent substantially more, approximately $83,000, on these particular types of air filters and air handlers for univents in each room from March 2020 to Aug. 20, 2021, a district spokeswoman said. They’re changed three times a year. 

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Before COVID-19 pandemic started, the district spent approximately $11,000 a year on air handlers and univents, a polyester fiber filter.

In other business, the board unanimously voted to settle a due process complaint filed by the parents of a disabled student in November. 

The complaint, filed under the Disabilities Education Act, said the student missed various therapy sessions during the 2020-21 school year. 

Under the settlement, the parents’ attorney fees of $6,500 will be paid by the district, and the student’s individualized education program was changed to include two weekly physical therapy sessions.

In addition, the district agreed to provide compensatory physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech language therapy and counseling sessions the student missed last year. 

While the student nor the student’s parents were identified in settlement papers, they were presented by attorney Kenneth S. Ritzenberg of Young/Sommer LLC. The Board of Education was represented by Susan T. Johns of Ferrara Fiorenza, P.C.

Contact reporter Brian Lee at [email protected] or 518-419-9766.

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One Comment


did you think the kids actually wanted these things on?
do you think the kids were scared of anything other than the PTSD the schools and television put them through?
will you forget, i’m sure you will.
those who just wanted to be left alone will not forget the torture you put our children through.

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