The Mineola Board of Education announced last Thursday that masks will be required when the school year begins.
The move came after the Port Washington school district’s similar plan while adhering to recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to stem the coronavirus pandemic.
It also came before Gov. Kathy Hochul announced on Tuesday that masks would be mandatory for students and staff at all school districts in the state.
The Mineola school district’s health and safety protocols, released after Thursday’s board meeting, “require that all faculty, staff, and students wear masks for all indoor activities regardless of vaccination status.” Outdoor activities, such as recess and sporting events, will not require masks.
The board said it would reconsider the safety practices six weeks after the first day of classes on Sept. 1, but officials said later that the governor’s action had made that moot.
Last week officials said decisions will be made based on health authorities such as the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the state Department of Health and the county Department of Health, among others.
“All things considered, if there is no spike and there is no high transmission rate, then we can move away from it,” said Michael Nagler, superintendent of schools.
Nagler acknowledged at the time that things could change with Hochul’s governorship commencing. Regardless, he said he didn’t expect major changes and wanted to provide the reasoning behind the policy.
“It’s a balance of what do we want to accomplish when we reopen,” Nagler said. “I think the majority of people I hear from want schools back. They want kids in class learning the way we used to. We don’t want to fill out forms every day, don’t want to be six feet. We want our sports back, our extracurriculars back.”
Speaking on the protocols, Nagler added: “We can do all of those things confidently. I think one thing that enables us to do all that is wearing masks.”
Part of the safety provisions include no offerings for fully remote or virtual learning programs, three feet of distance where practical for indoor locations and normal transportation schedules with masks at all times for occupants.
CDC guidelines say close contact is defined as someone who was within six feet of an infected individual for at least 15 minutes over a 24-hour period, two days after the illness began. Any individual in close contact with someone infected is required to stay home for 10 days after exposure.
The state Department of Health and the governor’s office previously announced they would not provide advice to slow the spread of the increasingly infectious virus in elementary, middle and high schools.
Board Vice President Patrick Talty reminded those in attendance in person and online that schools are almost a haven in their communities.
“School is a very safe place to be,” he said. “We’re going to keep it that way until we have the confidence to take the masks off.”
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article was published. It has since been updated for clarity.