East Williston school board OKs masks

East Williston school board OKs masks
East Williston School District’s Board of Education will mandate masks for all individuals this upcoming school year. (Photo by Brandon Duffy)

The East Williston Board of Education will mandate masks for students and adults for the coming school year.

The board approved a district safety plan for dealing with the coronavirus at a meeting on Friday that  followed Gov. Kathy Hochul’s announcement that masks would be required at all school districts statewide. 

Neighboring school districts previously implemented similar provisions before Hochul’s initiative. 

Safety measures for the district are posted on its website and include information on social distance, contact tracing and quarantine. 

The reopening plan for schools, which began classes Tuesday, said, “the East Williston School District Plan looks to the recommendations of the New York State Department of Education Health and Safety Guide for the 2021-2022 School Year issued in August 2021. The NYSED Guide is compiled based on the CDC’s Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools and the American Academy of Pediatrics’ COVID-19 Guidance for Safe Schools.”

During the public comment period, two speakers  said they opposed masks. 

Resident Lynn Klein said masks are not effective and do not follow the science. “The right to unrestricted breathing, the right to be recognized, the right to display and express one’s face are basic human rights,” she said.

“I’m not anti-science for not wanting my son to wear a mask all day,” she continued. “Anti-science would be reading the label on a box of these masks that says, ‘does not protect against viral infections,’ and still have him wear one.”

President Mark Kamberg said the district is adhering to recommendations by higher authorities in the state. 

“The district has made a decision to follow the guidance of the New York State Department of Health as well as the CDC,” said Kamberg. “That’s why there is a mask ruling in place.”

Hochul, who replaced Andrew Cuomo after his resignation, said Aug. 24 at a news conference: “My number one priority is getting children back to school and protecting the environment so they can learn safely. I am immediately directing the Department of Health to institute universal masking for anyone entering our schools.”

Hochul said the state will use $335 million in federal funds to launch a program that will provide coronavirus testing in each school district. Hochul also advocated for teachers and staff members to be vaccinated, but aims to arrange weekly testing for those not vaccinated.

Teachers and staff members in New York City public schools are required to be vaccinated against the coronavirus vaccine, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Aug. 23. Roughly 148,000 school employees will be required by the city to have at least a first dose by Sept. 27.

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