Despite state guidance change, many local school districts requiring masks indoors for students

Local News

GREECE, N.Y. (WROC) — A number of local school districts clarified their masking requirements for students and employees Friday, after New York State sent out updated guidance.

The state’s new guidance says starting Monday, masks will be encouraged indoors but not required, even for unvaccinated students. According to the NYS Department of Health, that decision was made to align school guidance with previously released summer camp guidance, since many summer camps are held on school properties. School districts are free to enact more strict guidelines than the state’s latest recommendations.

Greece, Brighton, Webster, Penfield and Gates-Chili school officials have so far chosen to do so by requiring masks indoors. Those districts are, however, relaxing masking requirements for students and employees in outdoor settings.

“We feel confident that it is safe to make this change next week given our community’s historically low COVID positivity rate, the CDC’s stance on masking while outdoors, and the New York State Department of Health’s acknowledgement that masking may not be medically tolerable in extreme heat,” Superintendent Kathleen Graupman said in a letter sent to parents Friday.

“Following consultation with local medical professionals and the ongoing review of CDC and state guidance, we believe that given the predicted high temperatures, lack of any evidence of outdoor transmission at school, very low prevalence of school cases, absence of required outdoor masking in any other local context, and the continued drop in cases locally, this is an appropriate and safe step to take,” said Brighton Superintendent Kevin McGowan. “We have been waiting for the state to act on what they have verbalized and feel it is increasingly unsafe for students to wear masks outdoors in the heat.”

Masks will also be required for events happening this weekend, including proms and sports. In Brighton, high-attendance events will also have masking requirements.

Both Greece and Gates-Chili released statements Friday evening, saying they may further change requirements before Monday in light of the state’s new guidance.

New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallotta issued a statement Friday afternoon, saying:

Announcing on a Friday afternoon that masks will now be optional for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people in schools starting Monday — with only three weeks remaining in the school year — is whiplash-inducing news. Short of any additional guidance from the state or the CDC before Monday, we implore school districts to closely evaluate local conditions and connect with their educators and parents to decide the best course of action for protecting their school community.

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