Hauppauge School Board members vote to keep mask requirement
Hauppauge’s School Board voted to keep the state’s mask mandate inside their schools in place, despite an outcry from members of the community.
The Hauppauge Teachers Association and School Board members met Sunday with attorneys to talk about a proposal to lift the mask requirement at schools in the district. Hauppauge's superintendent sent out a letter to parents that says, "All Hauppauge students, faculty and staff will be required to continue to wear masks while inside school facilities, as per previously explained protocols. As you know, mask-wearing is no longer necessary while outdoors. Every opportunity for mask breaks will be offered and our school leaders will provide comfortable testing conditions to the greatest extent possible in the coming weeks."
The state Health Department has stated that schools must comply with the guidance or be shut down.
Some parents and students say they don't mind wearing their masks, but others say enough is enough, arguing that COVID-19 infections are currently very low.
Hauppauge's School Board president says both the board and the district will continue to fight for local control concerning masks, as well as any issues they believe unjustly affects their students.
Full letter from Hauppauge Superintendent:
DR. DENNIS P. O’HARA
Superintendent of Schools
June 13, 2021
Superintendent of Schools
June 13, 2021
Dear Hauppauge Community:
We are sure many of you are aware of the District’s request on June 10, 2021, that Governor Cuomo and the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) lift the mask requirement for students in Pre-K through Grade 12 schools, when other methods of safe social distancing are possible. The District had also requested that if there was any data or science that contradicts lifting the mask mandate, that it be provided.
Although we have not heard directly from the Governor, Dr. Howard Zucker, Commissioner of Health for New York State, or the NYSDOH itself, Newsday reported that the Cuomo administration on Saturday reiterated that schools are required to follow the mask mandate to stay open. Specifically, the NYSDOH spokesperson stated, “...Pre-K through Grade 12 schools must comply with DOH guidance in order to be authorized to remain open for in-person instruction.”
This topic has been controversial, with strong feelings and diverging opinions, even within our own District. Despite these differences, however, we all remain steadfastly united in our belief that individual districts must be allowed the freedom to choose their own best course of action on all matters pertaining to the education, health and safety of their students. Hauppauge is a unique and special community, and we believe local control is critical to our ability to provide the strong educational programs that are the hallmark of our District. Especially in education, one size does not fit all. What is critical to Hauppauge, may not be the same to other districts across the state, or even across Long Island. Homogenized curricula, instruction and policy strips away individual community, family and pedagogical values.
In Hauppauge, we would never violate state law; that is not the lesson we want our children to learn. Opposition, in whatever form, must be done respectfully and always through lawful means. Moreover, a shutdown of our schools would be extremely detrimental to the educational process and certainly not in the best interest of our students. As such, all Hauppauge students, faculty and staff will be required to continue to wear masks while inside school facilities, as per previously explained protocols. As you know, mask-wearing is no longer necessary while outdoors. Every opportunity for mask breaks will be offered and our school leaders will provide comfortable testing conditions to the greatest extent possible in the coming weeks. Assuming we stay on the current trajectory related to COVID-19, we will advocate for a mask-optional policy for the 2021-2022 school year.
Despite this and the many other challenges of COVID-19, we have had a most-successful school year. We have seen academic achievement and the return of athletics, clubs and field trips. In the coming days, students will participate in field days and other end-of-year celebrations. Just last evening, our high school juniors enjoyed a beautiful prom and in a few weeks, our fifth- and sixth-graders will participate in moving up ceremonies. Most excitingly, on June 25th, the High School Class of 2021 will graduate together in one commencement ceremony.
Through it all, we kept students safe. Together, we are on the verge of defeating COVID-19. We thank you for your passion, continued support and most importantly, love of Hauppauge.
Dennis P. O’Hara, Ed.D. - Superintendent of Schools
David M. Barshay, Esq. - Board of Education President
Kevin Giachetti, President - Hauppauge Teachers Association