There were more residents than normal at the West Islip Board of Education meeting this past Thursday, Aug. 12, where most spoke out against mandatory mask-wearing in school this upcoming year.
Earlier this month, the New York State Department of Health announced they would not be instituting a mask mandate like they did last school year. The decision on masks will be up to individual districts.
The group, most of whom carried “My child, my choice” signs, claims it should be up to parents whether or not their child wears a mask to school.
A commonly brought up point was that masks were not required for students in summer school or camps, so it would be unfair to impose them on children again. One student from the district, who will be entering the fifth grade this year, noted the masks made him very sweaty and fogged up his glasses, which distracted him from learning.
Many parents said that masks were harming their children’s emotional well-being, as they never got to know what their teachers looked like or see their classmates smiling last year.
Also brought up was the use of clear desk shields, which were put around individual desks as a barrier between students. One parent said that the use of desk shields and masks made students “muzzled and in cages in their own seats.”
On Aug. 5, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their guidance on masking for schools, stating they “recommend universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students and visitors,” regardless of vaccination status.
At the meeting, West Islip superintendent Bernadette Burns said: “We are in the process of finalizing our reopening plan for the upcoming school year. As you all know, there are many difficult decisions that need to be made, but rest assured that every choice is framed around the premise that this district will provide full-time, in-person instruction for our students. We’re also committed to running a full extracurricular program at all levels.”
After the meeting, the district declined to comment on the meeting and their reopening plans due to the plans not yet being finalized.
The first day of school for West Islip is on Sept. 1.