To mask or not to mask

Discussion at the Sullivan West school board meeting

Posted 2/22/22

LAKE HUNTINGTON, NY — As expected, the hot-button topic on the February 17 Sullivan West Central School District’s Board of Education agenda was interim superintendent of schools Dr. …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

To mask or not to mask

Discussion at the Sullivan West school board meeting


LAKE HUNTINGTON, NY — As expected, the hot-button topic on the February 17 Sullivan West Central School District’s Board of Education agenda was interim superintendent of schools Dr. Kathleen Bressler’s comments about the mask policy at the Home of the Bulldogs.

Cutting to the quick of the matter, it was a matter of “to mask or not to mask, that is the question.”

“We know that this mask mandate will at some point end, but we do not yet have an end date,” she said, noting that last week, school superintendents across the county were “invited to speak with Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther regarding budget and any other items of note.”

According to Bressler, “We shared our concerns regarding masks” with Gunther, and later shared similar concerns with Sen. Mike Martucci.

She went on to note that the call to continue wearing masks or ditching them is “not a school district decision,” and added that in August 2021, when the Locust Valley Central School District in Nassau County went on record to state they would not follow the mask mandate, they received a letter from the state commissioner of education, and later were embroiled in legal action.

“We are here for all students, faculty and staff,” Bressler told the board. ”We will continue to speak to address our concerns to our assemblywoman and senator as we await new guidance on masking. In the meantime, our schools are working on plans to ensure a smooth transition to a mask-optional environment.”

As she warded off a few imaginary torches and pitchforks from students and parents, Dr. Bressler said, “We understand that people are tired and angry over this topic and continuous changes to regulations has worn on all of us… we are grateful to live in a community where we can talk to one another because we are neighbors.”

Speaking to the board and community at large, Bressler invited folks to make an appointment to talk with her, noting that in the spring, she plans to visit the communities of Narrowsburg, Callicoon and Jeffersonville “outside of the school walls.

“And for now, we are asking that during this transition that we are kind and compassionate to one another, so hopefully when it is over we can come back together again,” she said in concluding the superintendent’s comments on the current status of “masks-on, masks-off.”

More about masks and how the district deals with COVID-19

Bressler presented an update on opening plans, which focused on how the district has dealt with the impacts of the pandemic and how it intends to move forward into the foreseeable future, as guided “by the recommendations of the applicable medicals professionals.” Those include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the NYS Department of Health and Sullivan County Public Health Services. The organizations have “significantly changed their guidance on COVID-19 for schools” as the pandemic has evolved.

As part of her presentation, Bressler outlined a contingency plan for a mask-optional environment that would support medically fragile students, faculty and staff; offer socially distant zones in large gathering areas; continue virtual learning meeting options for parents, faculty and staff; allow parents to communicate their mask preferences for their children to school officials; and “promot[e] a caring environment where we are respectful of all personnel decisions on whether to wear a mask or not.”

The interim superintendent stressed that DOH isolation and quarantine requirements are still in effect and mask-wearing will remain in effect until the mask mandate is lifted. For information on the district’s vaccination clinics people should visit the district website, and “continue to keep your child home when sick,” Bressler said.

In other matters before the board

The Sullivan West BOE student representative report by Dylan Sager was postponed due to a boys’ varsity game of hoops during the monthly meeting.

The Class of 2022 graduation headline senior speakers were announced: Dylan Sager as valedictorian and Sophia Seidl as salutatorian

Sam Orcinoli, an elementary school aide, was selected as the monthly Sullivan West Standout.

Bressler, along with assistant elementary school principal Kevin Carbone and high school science instructor Padraic “Paddy” McCarthy, presented a New Teacher Academy for all non-tenured teachers.

Elementary-level teachers participated in literacy training, while at the middle and high school levels, teachers began to develop plans for an enrichment summer academy program.

Speaking of sports, a couple of weeks ago Gabby Cohen was honored for her signing at Kutztown University; last week Gavin Hauschild signed up to play football with the Buccaneers of the Massachusetts Marine Academy and Christopher Campanelli is scheduled to sign a letter of intent to join the Lackawanna College Falcons’ football team.

“It is a great honor to have so many of our athletes continue their careers beyond Sullivan West, and a testament to the athletics programs that prepared them for this level of competition,” said Bressler.

The next monthly public meeting of the Sullivan West Central School District school board is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 17. For information, call the district clerk at 845/482-4610.

mask mandate, school districts, mask-optional, community, student representative, Sullivan West Standout, Sam Orcinoli, New Teacher Academy


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here