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Mask protests force Clarence and Orchard Park school board meetings to become virtual

Previous meetings in early September both featured attendees refusing to comply with mask mandates on school property.
Posted at 5:56 PM, Oct 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-11 18:00:09-04

CLARENCE, N.Y. (WKBW)  — Two local Western New York school boards are closing their doors to in-person meetings - opting to move back to a virtual format after issues with attendees obeying the mask policy.

The Orchard Park School District's next meeting - on Tuesday, October 12th, and the Clarence School Board meeting on October 18th with both be virtual, according to the district's website. Clarence has also already hosted one virtual meeting since the incident.

Clarence ended its school board meeting from September 20th just shy of the eight minute mark. School board president Michael Fuchs can be seen reminding attendees to comply with the mask policy - an Erie County wide policy that masks must be worn on school property. After an initial warning, and a reminder, the group voted unanimously to end the meeting - going virtual for the foreseeable future.

A statement from the Erie County Sheriff's Office confirms that they were called to the scene at the Clarence High School to "disperse the crowd," said Scott Zylka, a spokesperson for the office.

He also added that the crowd was "compliant" in leaving the premises.

In Orchard Park, a number of attendees at a September 14th meeting also refused to wear masks.

In a statement via the School Board website, the Orchard Park Board of Education said they are moving online due to: "credible notice of noncompliance with District safety measures and NYS Department of Health requirements and mandates at future Board of Education meetings."

In addition, "A school district has no greater duty than protecting the health, safety, and welfare of its students and staff. The district takes all matters of safety very seriously and when appropriate, we work with district legal counsel and local law enforcement to assure the continued safety of all students, staff and community members."

Orchard Park police were unable to confirm if they were involved in the September 14th incident.

Both Board of Education departments have no plans of resuming in-person meetings.

They can be found on the Clarence Board of Education website, and the Orchard Park Board of Education website.

If you would like to participate in a meeting for either school district:

  1. Clarence -
    1. You must call (716-407-9100) before noon on October 15th, to comment during the October 18th virtual meeting.
  2. Orchard Park
    1. Email District Clerk Cheryl Conners at cconners@opschools.org before the afternoon of the meeting.