Debating masks in schools

Long meeting went well into the night

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There was plenty of debate on Thursday night at Sayville’s board of education meeting when parents upset with New York State’s masking guidelines challenged board members to push back against the mandates.

“This year has, without a doubt, been the most challenging,” said board of education vice president Carl Cangelosi. “I hate the fact that my children, your children, have to wear a mask, that they have to deal with the first pandemic in over a 100 years. It’s been extremely challenging.”

Many parents brought up Hauppauge Schools, where the school board president and teachers’ union president sent a letter to state officials telling them that they assumed they could no longer require masks where social distancing was possible. Parents wanted the Sayville BOE to “take a stand” similar to Hauppauge.

By Sunday, however, Hauppauge had reversed course and sent out a message saying they were still requiring masks to be worn in schools. Board members said they could not defy the state because it would mean risking approximately $26 million in state funding.

In a more emotional part of the meeting, one parent read off a list of anecdotes from students about how being masked has affected them. A common theme was teachers not following the same rules students are required to follow, as well as students becoming overwhelmed by the heat while wearing masks.

As of right now, local school districts do not have control over coronavirus restrictions in their schools. The power rests with state officials.

At the end of the meeting, board member John Verdone promised parents to “stand shoulder to shoulder with them” in this fight.

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