Commack superintendent: Cuomo's office directed reversal on changes to mask mandate

Tuesday afternoon, the Commack School District issued new mask rules, saying students would no longer have to wear masks at desks or in physical education classes when keeping 6 feet of distance.

News 12 Staff

May 26, 2021, 10:38 AM

Updated 1,056 days ago

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Students in Commack are still required to wear masks at school Wednesday after the district changed course on guidelines hours after they were first issued.
Tuesday afternoon, the Commack School District issued new mask rules, saying students would no longer have to wear masks at desks or in physical education classes when keeping 6 feet of distance.
But not long after, those changes were tossed out.
A robocall sent to families Tuesday night blamed Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office for the change, saying they were directed to rescind the mask recalls.
Superintendent Dr. Donald James says the governor's office told him they "could see how we interpreted the language to allow changes to our masking protocols," but that was ultimately not the intent.
The superintendent issued a statement saying, "Earlier this week Commack schools announced new protocols for mask wearing in our schools and the removal of sneeze guards from student desks effective May 26. Clearly, we were continuing our efforts to make changes during the COVID era that support the health, safety, and emotional wellbeing of our students. The changes to our mask protocols were supported by the fact that the April 9, 2021 guidance from the NYSDOH in part reads: 'Six feet of distance is required when eating meals or snacks, or drinking, or other times masks must be removed.'
Commack has been diligent in maintaining six feet of distance for all students since the beginning of the school year. When we explained to the governor’s office our strictness in keeping students six feet apart since the beginning of the school year, they indicated that didn’t matter and we were directed that masks must be worn at all times.
Know that the safety and welfare of our students and staff, as well as compliance with State and local regulations, are at the forefront of our decision making. Further, all safety protocols implemented earlier this year are still in place. We will continue to advocate for changes at the state level that allow for parental choice as we work to provide the best possible learning environment for all children."
The call also claimed mask inspectors from the state will be sent to check on the district's compliance.
The state Department of Health issued a statement saying, ""We specifically require universal masking, consistent with the CDC, in the current iteration of our guidance. There is no ambiguity; masks are required In the Department of Health's 24-page guidance document, and the use of and importance of masks is referenced 50 times. "
The district also said Tuesday that sneeze guards were due to be removed. They say that is still the plan, but they'll be kept in the classrooms in case social distancing is not possible.
The district is also planning to push the state to ease restrictions on events like prom and graduation.


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