Top teachers union officials on Thursday called for the Department of Health to require schools to make mask-wearing mandatory during all times of the school day while indoors.
The push was backed by the New York State United Teachers as well as the national American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. It comes as students, faculty and staff are set to return to the school year in the coming days, though some districts are starting the year in a remote-only format for instruction.
Exceptions for the mask requirement should be made if there is a medical issue, the union said. The letter can be found here.
The union raised concerns with the disparate mask policies between various school districts that are moving forward with reopening.
“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’s clear that numerous plans do not go far enough in their mask mandates to ensure the safety of students and educators.”
For now the state Department of Health has not issued a clear mask requirement for schools statewide. NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said the state "must step in" on the issue.
“The governor 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,” 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.”
NYSUT also has called for a statewide policy for closing school buidings for two weeks where there is a positive COVID case as well as clear protocols for testing, tracing and quarantining.