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Private school gives teachers discretion on face masks in classrooms

“I would like them to do what's safest"
Posted at 6:25 PM, Aug 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-26 18:25:09-04

WILLIAMSVILLE, NY (WKBW) — “I feel like my daughter shouldn’t have to choose between reasonable safety precautions and going remote in her senior year,” stated Nancy Mayer of Lancaster.

Mayer is a school parent at the Christian Central Academy in Williamsville.

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Outside of Christian Central Academy in Williamsville.

The school’s reopen plan calls for all in-school learning five days a week beginning September 8.

School classrooms are being prepared for the return of about 220 students in K-12.

Social distancing will be in place, face masks will be required, but removal in classrooms will be at the discretion of teachers.

Mayer is not pleased with that decision.

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Nancy Mayer of Lancaster, a school parent.

Upon entering the main door at the private school an automated temperature check screens those who enter.

If you’re not wearing a face mask the monitor immediately states “please wear a face mask.” Once you pull on a face covering it states “authenticated” and your temperature will be displaced.

There is no New York State mandate for students to keep their masks on, but state guidelines for in-school learning say face coverings are "strongly recommended at all times".

"I would like them to do what's safest,” remarked Mayer.

Her daughter Rose, 17, will be entering her senior year at the school next month. Rose has been attending since kindergarten. Her 22-year-old brother is also a graduate of the school.

Mayer says she’s concerned students won't be required to wear masks in classrooms at all times.

“If they did have the reasonable safety precautions — such as masks and six feet — there would be no reason why she shouldn’t be able to attend in person,” Mayer remarked. “I feel it’s much safer than having them sit in classroom six feet apart with no masks.”

The school's reopening plan states face masks will be worn in classrooms and when social distancing may be difficult elsewhere in the building.

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Outisde the Christian Central Academy in Williamsville.

But students may be allowed to remove their masks for short periods of time.

School president, Dr. Stuart Chen, said they are following the state guidelines very closely.

“We have compared with various other school districts and with the state guidelines and we are complying with them and consistent with them,” Dr. Chen explained.

“When the students are actually in the classroom, can they take them off?” Buckley asked.

“With the permission of the teacher — in mask break situations — there will be a little bit of lead way fro one teacher to the next as to what degree of discretion they allow for that,” answered Dr. Chen. “The mask breaks, for example, under teacher guidelines have to be with social distancing, but you don't have to take them off.”

“In my opinion, common sense to keep kids masked if they're going to be together, even if it is six feet,” said Mayer.

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Inside a kindergarten classroom at Christian Central Academy with desks spaced six feet apart.

Dr. Chen said some families don't want their children to wear masks because of political views.

The school leader said 60 different religious denominations are represented at the christian school and families have a variety of beliefs and political views. He said that has made drafting a reopen plan a “challenge.”

“On the one extreme there are families that are not in favor of having their kids wear masks, but other parents are very cautions,” replied Dr. Chen. “Those who feel they have more liberty, we’re reminding them, gently, that we need to be concerned for the weak, and that means airing on the side of excessive safety.”

Mayer said the school board president told her to put her concerns in the hands of God.

“I have been doing that throughout the pandemic. But when I’m talking about placing my child physically in a classroom — with other children — not wearing masks — that's not all I’m willing to do,” said Mayer.

“In our setting, there is both/and — there is diligent scientifically responsible effort and there is trust in God,” Dr. Chen described.

The school has given Mayer’s daughter the option to work remotely. But Mayer says because her daughter is going to be a senior this year it would be a disappointment not to be in the classroom.

Mayer said she hasn’t decided if her daughter would stay home.