School Muddy Waters: Mask Rulings

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The changing court rulings and decisions of the courts regarding facial coverings in schools mandated by the state governor continue to affect the schools in the area. Kathy Hochul.

Fredonia Schools Superintendent Dr. Bradley Zilliox stated that he was asked several times by the community about the status of the mask mandate. He also said that students are required to wear masks at school. These calls were prompted by a recent New York State Supreme Court decision that the Health Department was not allowed to enforce the mandate.

He said, “That kinda threw people into the feeling of not having to wear masks in schools anymore.” I started getting emails from people asking questions or suggesting that their child or grandchild could attend school… but not wearing a mask.

Zilliox stated that the district had taken the time to review the information and will appeal the decision of the State Supreme Court. This will cause a stay on the mask mandate. There will be no changes. Zilliox stated that the situation is currently stable.

He said that he knew there was some discussion in the media about whether this stay would be realized. “At the moment, we are still following the same protocol regarding masking as we have for the past two years. We are still required to use masks in our building, and this is the situation.

The Chautauqua County Department of Health also clarified some of the protocols that the state had established. He said, “What we have maintained in the building is that if students are in close contact to another student who has tested positively, absolutely, we notify these families if this is the case.”

Superintendent Robert Anderson of Gowanda stated that everyone has been on a “swivel” regarding the pandemic. Anderson noted that although things have changed many times, he knows that many people are overwhelmed by the communication.

He said, “I’m looking forward to not having COVID to discuss.” “I know everyone is tired of the constant conversation.”

Anderson stated that the school did everything they could to ensure safety for everyone. Since the start of the school year, Gowanda had set a goal to be fully present all year. Other than a few days that were unrelated to COVID-19 the school has mostly met this goal.

The topic of masking has been a major issue in recent times. The ruling will keep the mask mandate in place until March 2, while the regulation on the established authority to require masks expires February 21.

Anderson believes that local short-term mask needs will be established as the expiration nears. Anderson suggested that a public meeting be held on February 16 to discuss the direction they would like to go in regards to COVID-19 and masking strategies.

He said, “At that time, we’ll be able to have additional information and other considerations from the bargaining units and medical director, legal opinions, and any other relevant information.” “Maybe it will be a moot discussion by that point, but I don’t know. Things move so fast. However, I would like to have a discussion public to see how we feel about the process if the government decides.

Erie County, regardless of the state’s decision, is maintaining the mask mandate. Cattaraugus County, however, will likely recommend it, but will follow whatever the state says. This creates a bizarre intersection about what the school district should do.

Due to inclement weather, the original Thursday appointment for the vaccination clinic was moved to Monday by the superintendent.

Westfield Academy & Central Schools sent Hochul a letter expressing concerns about COVID and mandates. The Jan. 26 letter states that “Since your mandates were implemented, we have never seen more students or staff infected by COVID-19 than now.” “As we write this letter to you, our school is currently closed for in-person instruction because of staff shortages due to COVID infections. Instruction via remote learning has been made mandatory in order to meet our students’ educational needs.

In a letter to Hochul, board members note that the strategy for the mandates “is not working.”

The board stated that it was time to abandon the culture of mandates and instead shift toward a culture trusting and sharing responsibility. This allows decision-making related to COVID to be returned to school districts in close collaboration with county health departments. It’s time to let them do what they need because the third year of New York’s COVID strategy, which resembles the second two, is not good for our students’ or staff’s mental and physical health.