An Ancient Celebration modal link
As part of their social studies curriculum, sixth graders at Oakdale-Bohemia Middle School recently enjoyed a celebration of ancient Greece. Prior to... (more)
Celebrating Spirit Week modal link
Students at Helen B. Duffield Elementary School recently celebrated Spirit Week, dressing up and participating in programming based on a different... (more)
Congratulating College Athletes modal link
The 36 Connetquot High School student-athletes who have committed to pursuing athletics at the collegiate level were recently recognized during a... (more)
Dear Governor Cuomo and Commissioner Zucker,
Late in the afternoon last Friday, June 4, 2021, the letter that you wrote to the Dr. Walensky, Director of the Center for Disease Control, was unilaterally released to the public and immediately created a firestorm of conversations throughout the state. The catalyst for these conversations was your notation that stated, and I quote, “that New York State plans to align our school and camp mask guidance as follows. In both settings, as a minimum state-wide guidance:
This news was further supported by an immediate call to action, as the letter went on to state: “If there is and data or science that you are aware of that contradicts moving forward with this approach, please let me know as soon as possible. We plan to make this guidance effective on Monday June 7.”
As both the Superintendent of Connetquot Schools and a human being, I was very happy to receive this letter because, as it is written, it said to me that our New York State Commissioner of Health believed New Yorkers are safe enough to embrace relaxed mask wearing practices in our schools. Regardless of the reason - infection rates being is down, hospitalization rates being down, the state having one of the highest vaccination rates, or whatever other measures Dr. Zucker used to justify the letter – the message was clear that there should be an option for our students, faculty and staff to unmask when in school should they chose to do so.
Then on Sunday, we received a letter from the New York State Commissioner of Schools telling ALL school districts in the state that there was NO CHANGE in practice and policy, and we were to disregard the letter from the Commissioner of Health until an executive order containing a change was written by the Governor.
In my opinion, which has been shared by many, if the Commissioner of Health was simply seeking interagency communication to determine IF they could move forward with a relaxed mask mandate then the letter should never have been released to the public. Doing so, set up our communities to split into mask/unmask factions, created unnecessary chaos in school communities, and a level of mistrust across all levels. This move of broadly sharing the letter should not have occurred if all you were looking for was information prior to acting.
I have stated to my community many times this year that I am not an epidemiologist, I am an educator. I rely on the health experts and their guidance to keep our students, faculty and staff safe. We have meticulously followed the guidance AND as a school district I am proud to say that we have been successful in these endeavors.
With Monday’s announcement that the Governor has lifted the mandate on masks outdoors, I am elated, but I am also disappointed. Friday’s letter made us all believe that we were on the road to safety wherein which we could begin to unmask our students and staff throughout the school day. However, the ultimate reversal in that decision have left us in a state of confusion, unrest and disappointment. Simply stated, we can’t understand the why.
In Connetquot, an educational community of 5,500 students and 1,300 faculty and staff, we have had only 20 reported positive cases during the entire month of May, and only 5 reported positive cases during the month of June. We have had no community spread within our schools this entire year.
With the infection rate in Suffolk County at 0.74%, and nearly 0.0% in our schools, if this is not the time to unmask, when will be the time? Other indoor settings can go maskless when seated; catering facilities, restaurants, etc., but our students, when seated – socially distanced – at their desks cannot? Why not?
In addition to the relaxing the indoor mask mandate, we also need to lift the testing protocol needed to go above the 500-person gathering limit for outdoor graduations. Celebrations that can socially distance families from one another should be permitted to move forward with their celebrations without testing mandates. If a district wants to allow families to sit closer than 6 ft then we understand the need for the testing mandate. However, if social distancing is able to be maintained outdoors then why is the mandate needed? This remains another unanswered question and puts school districts in the difficult situation of weighing what is logically feasible with what our students and their families deserve.
Fellow districts on Long Island are persistently asking for your assistance. We stand with all of them. Do the right thing by the students of Long Island and all students in the state. Follow the science, which is what you have asked us to do since March of 2020.
To quote Governor Cuomo’s news bulletin on June 10, “Our positivity rates continue to drop to record lows …” If there is no scientific reason to wear masks indoors, as was intimated by the New York State Commissioner of Health last weekend, and by NYS permitting other indoor venues to allow masks OFF while seated, then move New York State schools in the right direction, now!
We are reaching the end of the bleakest school year we ever hope to see. Make the choice to make the last few weeks of the year filled with hope. The choice is yours and the time is now.
Dr. Lynda G. Adams
Superintendent of Schools
Last Day of School