Mask Mandate Update - February 11, 2022

Dear KLSD Community,

I’m writing with information related to masks in schools that was shared with our Board of Education at last night’s meeting.

Let’s start with good news around which we can all be unified. Following the peak of the Omicron variant, the number of COVID cases in our schools has dropped dramatically in the last few weeks. Good health and a return to normalcy in our schools is a shared goal for all.

As you are likely aware, earlier this week, Governors in our neighboring states announced dates (either late February or early March) on which their mask mandates in schools will end. Here in New York, Governor Hochul ended the indoor mask mandate for businesses effective yesterday, but she has not committed to a specific end date for schools. She has, however, indicated that she is looking at metrics to inform her decision and has signaled that a decision could be coming soon.

As a reminder, the school mask mandate in our State carries the weight of law. It is not a choice for individual school districts to make. Throughout the pandemic, KLSD has followed the law (as we always must and will) and has followed the guidance from the NYS Department of Health. Last night, I recommended to our Board that we continue to follow the guidance, including when that guidance changes. If the Governor gives us a date on which masks will no longer be required, they will no longer be required in our schools.

Given the signals coming from Albany, I’m advising all my colleagues and all our families to be readying themselves for a change. We know from the experience on January 25 (that day on which our authority to impose the mask mandate was temporarily removed) that a sudden change without notice is difficult for everyone. Since we have indication today that a change is likely, be thinking for yourself and talking to your children about what your decision will be when we are told that masks are no longer required.

When that moment arrives, it is imperative that we all be respectful of the different decisions individuals will make. There are many valid reasons that an individual might choose to continue wearing a mask or choose not to continue wearing one. Every individual has the right to keep their thinking and decision-making private. Our District will not tolerate teasing or bullying related to masks. In schools, our staff will establish the conditions that encourage respect and clarify the consequences in the event expectations are not met.

Some have asked what else might change when the mask mandate changes. Superintendents in our region, myself included, have been advocating to Albany both for lead time and for clarity in the regulations we will be expected to follow. Currently, there are other aspects of the Department of Health’s guidance that are connected to the wearing of masks (such as the return to school after five days of isolation). My hope is that we will get clarification before the mask mandate changes. If we do, we will share all changes with you. If we don’t, you can assume that all other mitigation strategies will remain reasonably consistent with current practice, until we learn otherwise.

Today, and until we hear otherwise, the mask mandate remains in effect and masks are required to be worn inside our schools.

If you have questions about anything above, please reach out to me or your school principal. Know that we may not respond to every individual email. Instead, we will be compiling all questions that come to us, and we will issue an FAQ if it appears such a document would be helpful to our community.

Thank you and be well,

Andrew Selesnick, Superintendent of Schools