CAPITAL REGION, N.Y. (NEWS10) — More than two dozen local school districts issue a plea to Governor Hochul and the Department of Health asking for clearer guidelines as they try to plan mask policies and after school schedules.
“We’ve been working under these guidelines for two years now and there doesn’t seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel,” says Hartford Central School District Superintendent Andrew Cook.
Thursday, Cook wrote a letter on behalf of 31 different districts all asking Governor Kathy Hochul and DOH Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett to share their pandemic exit strategy. Cook says the tipping point for him to put pen to paper was this week’s Supreme Court confusion on whether or not Hochul’s mask mandate is unconstitutional.
“In between the time when the news broke about the court case Monday night and when we were able to interpret that information and pass it along to our parents, it created a lot of confusion, it created a lot of anxiety and frustration, rightfully so,” Cook says.
“The way the court case came down and the judgment was made, it came across that it could be a free-for-all. When we confuse our community, especially in times like this, we lose their trust,” says Mechanicville City School District Superintendent Bruce Potter, who also added his name to the letter seeking a “pathway to normalcy.”
Thus far, Hochul on Tuesday said she didn’t yet have specifics to share on school plans.
“I don’t want to keep any requirements for safety in place a day longer than necessary, but I will not do it a day before we can do it safely,” Hochul said during a press conference.
A reply Friday from a representative with the governor’s office also adds Hochul’s comment: “The only reason we have this is because this is how we can keep our schools open. When our schools are open, and kids are safe there, moms and dads can get back to work.”
However, Potter says schools need their own metrics to measure when masks will be mandated and when they can become optional.
“Whether it be based on transmission rates locally or vaccination rates based on a particular building or communities, something,” he says.
The letter also asks Hochul for more consistency on after school activity guidelines.
“It’s very frustrating for our students and their families when we try to explain, well I’m sorry your student can’t participate in basketball practice today, but they could participate in gym or they can participate in chorus during the instructional day, but now that it’s 3:10, they can’t participate in drama club,” Cook says.
“I can’t convince anyone of that, because it doesn’t make sense,” Potter explains to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton. “We made decisions last year that were based on what we knew. So for example, we now know that quarantining through contact tracing is not an effective strategy, that’s been shared with us. So as we continue to learn more, at what point can we can we make a solid decision and what does that look like?”
They say although the students are taking things in stride as best they can, the pandemic continues to sap away their school spirit.
“No matter how you slice it, it’s not a normal school experience,” Potter says.