BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — Students across New York State must remain masked in the classroom. Governor Kathy Hochul announced Wednesday the mask mandate will be lifted for businesses, but not for schools.
Tarja Parssinen, Clarence parent, WNY Education Alliance, says she is disappointed by Hochul’s decision, but not surprised.
“Schools really can't be treated differently than every other place in society,” Parssinen remarked.
“Sooner we can get out of this mask mandate so that children can get back to normalcy, the better for the children,” replied Sam Radford, We the Parents.
Parents from two different school districts in Clarence and Buffalo both say they believe it is time for the mask mandate to end in schools.
They say they are very worried about how masks could be harming and limiting language and social emotional development for children, especially those with special needs.
“But I also think we should be equally concerned about the fact that our children are falling further behind,” Radford said.
Governor Hochul says masks will remain in school for now, but the state will be sending test kits home with students before and after break. The state will then review all the data to reevaluate in early March.
Hochul says she believes school leaders prefer the state make the decision.
@GovKathyHochul before & after midwinter break home test kits will be provided for K-12 students. State will make an assessment in early March on protocols based on latest metrics. @WKBW https://t.co/cQAAIlXyPz pic.twitter.com/KGAkOzXiuI— . (@eileenwkbw) February 9, 2022
“They prefer that it be a state on or off requirement. It is challenging for an individual school board or a school superintendent — they would say that they are not the health care experts, so we'll leave it to individual health departments, county health departments — on what they choose to do,” Governor Hochul stated.
“Do you think the schools and districts themselves, leadership — should have own decision making power?" Buckley asked.
“At this point, I do think that school districts should be able to decide for themselves. What's going on in Lancaster is very different than what is going on in Buffalo Public School District — every district is different and deals with different challenges,” Parssinen replied.
“We should move with a deliberate speed to get children back to normalcy and get them into an environment where they can learn the way they've traditionally learned,” Radford explained
But not everyone wants children to unmask in school.
Keith Jones is executive board member of the Buffalo Parent-Teacher Organization (BPTO). He says he supports Hochul’s decision.
“It’s a good idea because there’s still a lot of moving parts. We’ll be dealing with teachers that's not vaccinated. We'll be dealing with students that's not vaccinated and until we get it under control. Schools are really a safe haven for our kids,” Jones noted. "But people are still dying and that's the one thing we've got to think about."
I did reach out to several school leaders, but none were available Wednesday for comment.