In the final days of the 2021 school year, County Executive Laura Curran, a Democrat who is running for re-election, made a surprise visit to a rally organized by her opponent to protest face-covering requirements in schools.
Bruce Blakeman, a Republican challenger for Curran’s seat, spoke to demonstrators last Wednesday about his frustrations over continued state mask mandates in schools, according to Newsday. Curran spoke shortly after, saying she had already been pushing for “common sense protocols.”
“It seems to many people here that what is happening is government is trying to substitute their judgment for the judgment of parents, and that is completely wrong,” Blakeman said, according to Newsday.
In her remarks, Curran said the situation has changed. “It is time for the mandates and the protocols to match reality,” she said, according to Newsday.
The demonstration was held outside county government offices in Mineola, not far from the Mineola Board of Education office where outgoing President Christine Napolitano reported a calmer relationship with parents and students.
“We are aware of only one parent who has complained about the mask mandate in school,” Napolitano said. “Ironically, he does not have children in our schools (he has a child in private school) and I don’t know if he has made his complaints known to that private school or not.”
Napolitano added, “If there are other parents who are unhappy about the mask mandate, they have not made it known to any of us.”
New York state recently eased school restrictions. Unvaccinated children ages 2 to 5 are no longer required to wear coverings at day care centers or summer camps. Outside of schools, fully vaccinated individuals are not required to wear face coverings.
In Mineola, Napolitano made it clear that her district is required to follow the Department of Health guidelines.
“Of course, we look forward to the day when masks will not be required in our buildings,” Napolitano said. “We are very optimistic that it will be soon.”
Until that time, face coverings are required in Mineola schools and schools across the state. Though anticipating a shedding of masks, Napolitano noted the present mood of students, and how air-conditioned buildings have given them comfort.
In a later interview, Curran pressed the need for returning to normal activities in school. “The isolation, the inability to do normal things, we understand that for a period of time was necessary,” Curran told Newsday. “But that time has passed.”
Still, Napolitano gave an indication that normal activities may already be here.
“We have all been in the schools ourselves and have observed children in all kinds of activities,” Napolitano said. “They are happy, healthy and active.”