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School mask requirement remains in place Monday, Education Department says

School mask requirement remains in place Monday, Education
Department says 1

Long Island students will have to wear masks to school on Monday because the state has not formally changed its school mask mandate, despite an announcement Friday that state officials planned to lift school mask requirements by then, officials said Sunday.

The New York State Education Department told school districts Sunday that state health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker’s letter to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was to obtain a response from the federal agency on lifting the school mask mandate, “but it has not changed any existing arrangements,” according to a letter obtained by Newsday.

“Therefore, schools should continue to operate under their existing procedures until further notice,” the education department wrote to districts. “No changes have been, or will be, made by the Executive until after Monday June 7 to afford the CDC an opportunity to respond to the letter.”

State officials said Friday they planned to lift the mask mandate in schools starting Monday, as long as the CDC did not object. The change would go against federal guidance, which recommends masks be worn in schools.

The state’s announcement “created a colossal mess” for districts, the New York State Council of School Superintendents wrote in a letter Sunday morning. The announcement on Friday made it seem that the rules were changing, even though they hadn’t, the council said.

Commack School District Superintendent Donald James said he was “disappointed” that the mask mandate will remain in place Monday.

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“The release of the letter on a Friday afternoon created mass confusion, not only among superintendents and staff but among parents,” James said Sunday. “And then here we are on Sunday [afternoon] and we find out the letter doesn’t mean what we thought it meant. And now we are going into a heat wave this week.”

The Commack School District has been among the most vocal in criticizing the facial covering rule.

Earlier this month, the district said students would no longer need to wear masks at their desks or during recess or physical education classes, as long as they stayed six feet apart. But that decision was vetoed by the Cuomo administration, school officials said.

The Cuomo administration press office and the state Education Department did not immediately respond to comment requests on Sunday.

Robert Dillon, superintendent for Nassau BOCES, said the announcement sent Long Island school districts “in all different directions.” BOCES, which oversees shared services for 56 school districts, will continue to require masks on grounds because the law has not changed, even as “wants and wishes” have, Dillon said.

“I’m the biggest advocate for getting back to what it was pre-March of 2020,” Dillon said Sunday. “But I am not in the power to do that.”

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