Massapequa and Farmingdale parents irate at Hochul
With the 2021-22 academic year set to kick off, the announcement by recently installed Governor Kathy Hochul directing the state health department to require universal masking in schools has stoked the fury of a vocal group of Massapequa and Farmingdale parents.
Both communities have these residents decrying this as a violation of personal rights cleaving to the idea of “My child, my choice” in the face of the CDC predicting the number of hospitalized Americans doubling by mid-September. It’s a development CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky is taking very seriously.
“The reason to mask in schools is not necessarily only to protect our adults,” Walensky said. “But also to protect our children from transmissibility, from one child to another. And then, of course, from children going home to perhaps unvaccinated or immunocompromised or at-risk adults who might have waning immunity.”
Former Governor Andrew Cuomo had allowed districts to institute mask-optional policies before resigning on Aug. 24. At an Aug. 18 board meeting, the Massapequa School Board announced it would not require masks for students and staff when the school year begins, a decision greeted with cheers and thunderous applause by mostly unmasked parents in attendance.
The newly announced guidelines state masks will be recommended and not required indoors, but still required on school buses. Remote instruction will be eliminated, Plexiglas barriers will be removed and no further health checks will be conducted. School Superintendent Lucille Iconis said the decision was based on results observed during the recent summer session of classes.
“With the Delta variant in the equation, we had nine confirmed cases,” she said. “That included students and staff.”
A Farmingdale School District board meeting held on Wednesday, Aug. 25, a day after Hochul’s swearing-in and announcement of state-backed mask mandates, was packed with irate parents displeased over the decision.
One dissenting voice was a woman who declined to give her name but identified as a contact tracer in favor of continued COVID-19 protocols and masking who said, ““This is an institution of education. We have to go with the facts and truth and what I’ve just heard has nothing to do with either of those things.”
Local group Moms for Liberty and member Barbara Abboud has been vocal in their opposition to the mask mandate dating back to the June board meeting and wanting to know what is prompting Hochul to go in this direction.
“Show me the data,” Abboud said. “Show me why you’re issuing this guidance and I welcome it. There is no longer a state of emergency or governor emergency powers. She’s trying to circumvent the legislative process by asking the department of health to issue the guidance.”
The board responded by declaring it has no authority over any mandate issued by the state and “…if you’re going to be angry, be angry with them.”
As of press time, the Farmingdale School District was moving forward with its reopening plan as it currently stands with a mask-optional policy until such time they receive official word from the governor’s office and/or the New York State Department Of Health that masks are mandatory. The Massapequa School District is taking a similar tact according to a statement released by Iconis.
“We look forward to working with Governor Kathy Hochul as we start the new school year. We await definitive guidance from the New York State Department of Health regarding protocols related to COVID-19. Until such guidance is provided, we will continue with the protocols that have been endorsed by our board of education and shared with our community,”