Requirement falls in line with new governor’s order
In what has become a hot topic all over the country when it comes to mask wearing for students, the Mineola Board of Education has decided to enforce mask wearing for all students and faculty inside the building despite their vaccination status for the time being. The decision came from the board’s most recent public meeting late last month.
In a step towards normalcy, the district will only offer in-person daily instruction and will not move forward with any virtual or hybrid teaching models. Last September, the district said that more than 600 students opted for a fully virtual teaching model.
Masks, however, will be optional during outdoor activities such as recess. Instead of the usual six feet of social distancing that everyone has become accustomed to, the district will enact three feet of social distancing inside classrooms and where its practical.
“I think the majority of the people that I hear from want school back,” Superintendent Michael Nagler said at the meeting. “They want kids in classes. We want to use our art rooms and our music rooms, and we don’t want to fill out forms every day and be six feet [apart]. We want our sports back. We want our extracurriculars back. We can do all of those things and I think one thing that enables that to do those things is wearing a mask.”
In addition, the district will not require the use of the daily symptom checker and will continue to be in contact with the county’s health department when and if there are positive cases in the building.
“Students that are identified as a potential close contact, but masked will not be asked to quarantine unless symptomatic,” reads a pamphlet from the district that was given to parents. “If the students in question are in close contact for 15 minutes while unmasked, we will work with NCDOH to determine quarantine procedures. If a student is exhibiting symptoms consistent with COVID-19, the parent will be notified and asked to pick up the child and consult their physician. Students can return to school with a negative COVID-19 test or a note from their physician stating the symptoms are not a result of COVID-19.”
When it comes to transportation to school, students will be required to wear masks on the bus. The district will continue to do their deep cleaning of the school every night for extra safety.
For outdoor fall sports, masks are optional for players and spectators. Vaccinated students will not be asked to quarantine unless they’re symptomatic. However, for indoor sports, players need to wear a mask as tolerated. For indoor and outdoor sports, if a student isn’t vaccinated and is deemed a close contact, they will be required to quarantine. For spectators, masks must be worn for indoor events.
Indoor events for parents such as Meet The Teacher Night and the district’s PTA meeting in September will be held virtually until health protocols are revised. Parents are invited to attend outdoor events such as the Welcome Back Barbecue at the middle school.
Mineola resident Valerie Martyrn, who has four young kids who attend school in the district, is against face masks for her children citing numerous scientific studies linking mask wearing to a decline in mental health in young kids.
“Here we are facing another year of face coverings and another year of uncertainty,” she said. “Children cannot—even though some adults can—see the light at the end of this tunnel. These kids are already behind academically. The board works for the parents; not vice versa. To implement unfair and unjust rules without my consent is wrong, and it shouldn’t be allowed. If parents want to mask their child, that’s their choice as it should be mine to not mask my kids.”
Parent Maureen Cascone agreed with Martyrn that it should be a parent’s choice.
“I’m not knocking anyone who wants to wear a mask, but I personally have an argument with my 12-year-old who wanted to get vaccinated and not to wear a mask. I have to go home and explain to him now that he did that all for what?” she asked.
Abby Speece read a letter from another parent who couldn’t attend the meeting who supports masking urging the board to follow CDC guidelines, in which Speece agreed with.
The board said they would revisit the mask mandate six weeks after school starts at its next meeting on Oct. 7. However, it seems that meeting might not be necessary. Last Tuesday, new NY State Governor Kathy Hochul mandated that students and staff throughout the state wear masks inside schools. Hochul also ordered mandatory vaccines for staff or an option of weekly testing.
Classes for the district started on Sept. 1.