As we shared with you previously, last week a Supreme Court judge in Nassau County ruled the mask mandate for schools unconstitutional. The decision was quickly appealed by the state and a “stay” was enacted that maintained the mandate while the appellate court conducted a hearing and considered the case. We are still awaiting word on the outcome of this appeal, and in the meantime all New York State school districts must continue to follow New York State Education Department and Department of Health guidelines, which require that students and staff continue to wear masks in school at this time.
As we have throughout the pandemic, the District will continue to follow all pertinent guidance issued by the state. Accordingly when permitted by the state, masks will become optional in the Pelham Public Schools.
I recognize that this continues to be an uncertain and unsettling time for many and that each chapter of this pandemic presents us with new questions and challenges. I also understand that some families may need time to prepare their children for this shift and determine whether or not they wish to continue wearing masks in school. Once the state ends the current mask mandate, the District will review all relevant guidance and will move swiftly to share additional information about how this change in policy will be implemented within our schools so that families can plan accordingly.
It is important to remember that everyone’s approach to COVID-19 is different and I encourage everyone to be respectful of the choices made by others, especially our students. It is also important to keep in mind that the District will continue to use a layered mitigation approach to limit the spread of COVID-19 including:
- Maintaining physical distancing of 3 feet in classrooms and 6 feet during lunch
- Making KN95 masks available to all students and staff who would like one
- Providing the Test to Stay program for eligible students who would otherwise need to quarantine
- Encouraging participation in our weekly PCR testing program
- Using portable air purifiers in all learning spaces.
As we prepare for the next phase of this pandemic, vaccination continues to be the most important mitigation strategy, especially when it comes to preventing the most severe outcomes of the disease. We are fortunate to have high vaccination rates among our students and staff, as well as in our community, which I believe positions us well to make masks optional when the time comes. We will continue to post and update vaccination rates, positive case counts, and the results of our screening testing on the District website to help families make educated decisions about masking for their children. We also encourage families to send images of your children’s vaccination cards to COVID-19 Coordinator Jackie Huezo or your school nurse after receiving the second vaccine or booster dose to help us maintain up to date vaccination rates at each school.
The District will continue to monitor all guidance and information from the state and Department of Health and will keep you up to date as more information becomes available.
Cheryl H. Champ, Ed. D.
Superintendent of Schools
Cc: The Pelham Board of Education
Jessica DeDomenico, President
Sue Bratone Childs, Vice President