New York City to continue mask mandate in schools as state plans to drop requirement

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Friday, June 4, 2021
Parents, students hold 'Unmask our Kids' rallies on Long Island
For the last several weeks on Long Island, some parents and students have been holding rallies called "Unmask Our Kids" rallies.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- New York City public schools will continue requiring masks even as the state plans to drop requirements as soon as Monday.

New York has informed the CDC that on Monday, the state intends to allow school districts to waive the mask mandate for students outside the building unless the CDC advises the state before Monday of contrary data or science.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his intentions to waive mask mandates for students in a letter to the director of the CDC.

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The state Department of Health will align its mask guidance for schools and camps moving forward, including the encouragement -- but not requirement -- of mask wearing for those who are not fully vaccinated.

Masks will not be required for those fully vaccinated, both indoors and outdoors, though schools and camps are free to implement stricter standards.

New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) President Andy Pallotta said the updated mask mandate is "whiplash-inducing news."

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"Short of any additional guidance from the state or the CDC before Monday, we implore school districts to closely evaluate local conditions and connect with their educators and parents to decide the best course of action for protecting their school community," Pallotta said.

Meanwhile on Long Island, for the last several weeks, some parents and students had been holding rallies called "Unmask Our Kids" rallies demanding that kids be allowed to take their masks off in school.

Barbara Abboud, of Farmingdale, has been organizing some of the rallies and was elated to hear the news on Friday.

"This is the right thing to do," she said.

Abboud was one of the parents who attended a school board meeting in Farmingdale on Wednesday, which resulted in the school board members abruptly ending the meeting and walking out when some parents refused to put on masks.

School board members said they were unable to hold the meeting if parents didn't follow state guidelines and wear masks while on school property.

Eyewitness News obtained cell phone video of the meeting which shows parents yelling at school board members and the members about five minutes later walking out of the building.

Abboud said the purpose of the meeting was to meet with school board members to discuss masks in schools. Abboud said it took parents three months to arrange an in-person meeting with the school board.

"The intentions were just to be heard," she said.

"The district recognized and respects the perspectives that many members of our community have about these regulations," said Paul Defendini, the Superintendent of the Farmingdale School District. "However, the district is obligated to abide by the requirements clearly established by the State health authorities."

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, who had publicly expressed her support for similar guidance, applauded the news.

"Today's lifting of the mask mandate in schools will finally put the decision in the hands of the educators and parents who know their children and particular circumstances best," she said.

Last month, superintendents in the Comsewogue, Miller Place, Port Jefferson and Rocky Point School Districts sent a joint letter to the New York State Health Commissioner with the subject line, "Local Control Needed by Board of Education."

The superintendents wrote, "If summer day camps can operate without mandating that campers wear face coverings, then why are schools not given the same ability to extend mask breaks while students are socially distant or outdoors."

They also wrote, "Let our boards of education, which have been rightfully elected by our residents to represent them in school district matters, make the decisions that are in line with our communities' desire and best interests."

The changes in the New York school mask mandate are expected to be formally announced as early as Monday.

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