Students still have to mask up in New York schools, Education Dept. walks back NYSDOH comments

Local News

ALBANY, N.Y. (WIVB) — The New York State Education Department is walking back comments from the NYS Department of Health about new guidelines for masks in schools.

In a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Friday, NYS Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker announced students in grades Kindergarten through 12 would no longer have to bring their masks with them to class.

However, the Education Department is now telling superintendents that the letter was to get a response from the agency about contradictions in its guidelines.

It goes on to say that schools should continue enforcing mask mandates and there will be no change.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran called for immediate clarification from the state.

“The conflicting messages coming from the State regarding masks in schools are causing confusion for school officials and parents,” she said in an emailed statement. “This decision must be put in the hands of the educators and parents who know their children and particular circumstances best.”

Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro was frustrated by the news Sunday.

“New York intentionally misled people causing unnecessary confusion, conflict, and chaos,” Molinaro said. “The State must end the confusion and restore local authority.  This decision should be put in the hands parents who know their children and circumstances best.‬”

A Sunday letter from the Education Department to Boards of Education around New York reads:

As of September 1, 2020, school districts were permitted to reopen, under Executive Order 202.60, “subject to adherence to Department of Health issued guidance and directives.”  These have included the submission of reopening plans to address, among other things, distancing and health requirements.

SED has been in communication with Executive staff regarding the attached letter from Dr. Howard Zucker, New York State Commissioner of Health.  According to conversations with Executive staff, the intent of this letter was to obtain a response from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) regarding differing standards for summer camps and schools; it has not changed any existing arrangements.  Therefore, schools should continue to operate under their existing procedures until further notice.  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.

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