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The New York State United Teachers Union Calls On The State ‘To Make Masks Mandatory At All Times In Schools’

Published Thursday, August 27, 2020
by NYSUT News
The New York State United Teachers Union Calls On The State ‘To Make Masks Mandatory At All Times In Schools’

(ALBANY, NEW YORK) – The New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) Union - joined by American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten, local Educators and others - today (Thursday, August 27th) called on New York State to update Department of Health school reopening guidelines to make mandatory the wearing of masks at all times indoors during the school day, except for appropriate break periods and in cases of medical accommodation

In a letter to State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker, the Union cited ongoing concerns with school reopening plans across New York and the disparate mask policies that exist among school districts. 

NYSUT urged the state to look to scientific research showing the efficacy of masks and recent guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics that recommends the universal use of face coverings. 

The Union also cited a recent change in Pennsylvania guidance to make the use of masks mandatory at all times during the school day

“Unfortunately, as the beginning of the school year nears and districts continue working out their reopening plans with parents and Teachers, we are seeing disparate mask policies that are not leaving parents or Educators confident in the safety of their district’s plans,” the letter states. “In reviewing individual reopening plans with educators in the field - it is clear that numerous plans do not go far enough in their mask mandates to ensure the safety of students and Educators.”

“The Governor (Andrew Cuomo) has said – ‘and we agree’ - that parents and Educators ‘must be confident in their school district’s reopening plan in order for this to work,’” NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said. “As we hear of ‘disparate’ mask procedures and other issues in reopening plans across the state, ‘it’s clear that the state must step in.’  ‘Making masks mandatory at all times is one step toward helping address the reservations that still exist regarding reopening school buildings.’” 

“We ‘are still fighting’ a global pandemic and masks ‘are key to protecting others around us,’” AFT President Randi Weingarten said. “That is ‘why they must be central to reopening’ schools. ‘It’s part of creating confidence in parents, students and School Staff by utilizing all the appropriate public health safeguards to prevent the spread of virus in schools.’  ‘This is not a question of either/or - masks or social distancing when inside schools.’  ‘To protect the health and safety of everyone in the school community, it’s both/and until the risks from the Coronavirus are contained.’” 

“While our district has adopted a ‘Masks on the Move’ Policy, such as when students are in the hallways, in the classroom, ‘masks will not be required,’” said Diane Vanyo, the President of the Argyle Teachers Association in the Capital Region. “We ‘have raised numerous concerns’ with the district about this policy, ‘which we fear will lead to students and Teachers coming in and out of confined rooms where masks have not been worn all day.’  ‘But with no movement on the local level, state action is exactly what we need to ensure we have the safest environment possible for our students and for our Staff.’” 

“Simply put, making it mandatory that masks be worn throughout the school day ‘would make me feel all the more confident that sending my children back to their classrooms is a safe option,’” said Brandon Johnson, a parent of a fifth grader and eighth grader and an Educator in Horseheads in the Southern Tier. “As a parent, ‘I don’t feel the district has taken adequate steps to address this concern.’  ‘It’s time the state stepped in and made this policy simple for every district statewide.’” 

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The Full Letter Can Be Read Here


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