Four local school districts confront Gov. Cuomo on mask-wearing mandates
With New York state opening back up since the March 2020 shutdown, businesses can now start resuming normal operations again.
However, four local Suffolk County public school superintendents believe schools have been overlooked when it comes to no longer wearing masks, leaving teachers, parents and students confused and frustrated.
A June 10 letter signed by the Comsewogue, Port Jefferson, Miller Place and Rocky Point school superintendents, directed to Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and New York State Department of Health officials, criticized the one-size-fits-all approach to school mask mandates.
“Our communities need our schools to be able to adapt to updated health guidelines that are applicable to our specific areas, yet we as administrators are constrained by inflexible regulations that are not reflective of individual community positivity or vaccination rates,” the letter said.
In order to avoid any further confusion amongst parents and school districts, the schools solution would be to work directly with local health officials rather than the government.
According to Port Jefferson Superintendent Jessica Schmettan, the Suffolk County Department of Health Services has been extremely helpful in aiding the county’s school districts throughout the pandemic.
Working closely with regional data is something Schmettan feels will be a more effective strategy for mitigation of the virus rather than blanket guidelines for the entire state of New York.
“I have great hope that the governor and the NYDOH will consider our request,” Schmettan said. “We are proud of the work our schools have done through this pandemic. We hope to end the year without restrictions just as they have been removed for other businesses across the state.”
Many parents of the students have made it clear they are also dissatisfied with the state’s mask mandates on school districts, and believe it should be a parent’s choice on whether or not their child should wear a mask.
Rocky Point school district superintendent, Scott O’Brien, said although the state’s mask mandates have been overwhelming for all, students have done an excellent job following the guidelines.
“It has been that level of cooperation from students, parents, teachers and staff that have enabled our schools to successfully stay open and deliver in-person instruction throughout this school year,” O’Brien said. “We are grateful to the entire Rocky Point school community for coming together and making this most challenging school year a success.”
The other superintendent signatories to the letter were Jennifer Quinn, Comsewogue, and Marianne Cartisano, Miller Place.
By creating a unified voice to highlight the importance of local control regarding mask mandates, the four county school districts hope the letter to Cuomo will make a difference for their students, even though the final day of school is June 24.