The New Hyde Park-Garden City Park school district announced at a Board of Education meeting Monday night that its reopening plan includes a mask mandate for students, visitors and staff. The meeting was held the day before Gov. Kathy Hochul instituted a mask mandate for all school districts in the state for the coming school year.
Before the governor’s announcement, nearby school districts in Port Washington and Mineola also included similar provisions before classes begin.
The proposed health and safety protocols, released on the district’s website, say, “Students benefit from in-person learning, and safely returning to in-person instruction in the fall 2021 is a priority. Due to the circulating and highly contagious Delta variant, CDC recommends universal indoor masking by all students (age 2 and older), staff, teachers, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.”
Part of the reopening plan includes three feet of social distance where practical for indoor locations and a return to normal transportation schedules with masks at all times for occupants. The district will also not offer remote learning options, in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Association of Pediatrics, unless a mandate is made.
Discussing mandates, School Superintendent Jennifer Morrison cited a family saying. “Something my father always told me when I was growing up,” she said. “It’s for right now, not forever.”
Trustee James Reddan said the district is considering the needs of everyone and sees this plan as the best chance to return to regular operations.
“We are looking to do what’s best for every child. Every child is different,” he said. “My job is not to agree or disagree with doctors, my job is to keep children safe.”
During a public comment period, residents who filled out a card were able to speak for three minutes at a time. A resident could go to the podium multiple times, but only speaking for three minutes in order to allow everyone to speak.
The mandates were met with differing opinions, and often requests to give parents the option to choose.
“Last time I checked this was a republic,” said a resident. “What happened to the freedom of choice?”
Many residents questioned whether the board was blindly following the recommendations, which are not law.
“Why are we going to a higher and higher authority to find an excuse to bring back masks? Where is the advocacy for the children?” a resident said.
Morrison reiterated that the board is doing whatever it can to make sure the school district can return to normalcy.
“As the guidance changes, we change with the guidance,” she said. “Masks are the mitigating factor to help us get there.”