Board of education to NYS Health Commissioner: ease mask requirements, density limits at outdoor events

The Pine Bush Board of Education wrote a letter to the New York State Commissioner of Health, Howard A. Zucker, on June 2, 2021: 

Dear Commissioner Zucker,

We implore you to reconsider the very tight restrictions placed on schools regarding mask requirements and density at outdoor events like athletic contests and graduation ceremonies. The requirements that athletes practice
and compete in masks for track and other spring sports is not just impractical, it raises health concerns on its own.

Unlike medical facilities and mass transit, schools are the only category with heavier mask requirements where a significant amount of activity occurs outside (think recess). Given the CDC statements about the transmission
potential outdoors, we believe it is past time for a new set of guidelines for school-based activities that establishes guidelines that are differentiated between indoor vs. outdoor activities.

Schools are also the venues with the tightest restrictions in the state on the density for both indoor and outdoor events. Current guidelines are forcing districts like ours to consider staging moving-up ceremonies for fifth and
eighth graders and induction ceremonies for National Junior Honor Society with no parents able to attend. Our parent community (which includes most/all of us) questions why thousands of people can attend sporting events in New York without having to show proof of vaccination or negative PCR test results, but schools are expected to impose these restrictions, unless the gathering is very small. The result is that rather than having one ceremony for our more than four hundred seniors, we may have to hold multiple events and still limit each graduate to only two guests. Given where we are in our fight against the pandemic and what we now know about transmissibility risks outdoors, the current guidelines seem overly restrictive. We believe students and their families deserve and should be able to have the traditional outdoor graduation ceremony they have enjoyed in the past, and it seems current circumstances should allow for that.

The New York State Department of Health regulations about mask-wearing in schools is clear and states, “Face masks are required at all times, except for meals.” We respectfully request that you relax this standard, especially
when staff are six feet apart and students three feet apart, outdoors, and increasingly vaccinated.

Advocating for our public schools,

The Board of Education
Pine Bush Central School District

Pine Bush Central School District
State Route 302, Pine Bush, NY 12566
Phone: (845) 744-2031
Fax: (845) 744-6189
Tim O. Mains
Superintendent of Schools
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