Important Update on Masking

February 13, 2022

Dear Wildcats,

I am writing to you today regarding the status of New York State’s school mask mandate. I understand that many of you are completely fed up with restrictions and mask mandates and others remain anxious about ending them too soon. In Mount Pleasant, we have been consistent and clear that when options exist for parents to make decisions for your children, we provide them to you. Unfortunately, in schools and on buses, we are currently without options and I ask that you take a few minutes to read the information below so that you can have a better understanding of the District’s position. 

Last Thursday, we hosted a Legislative Gathering with all of Mount. Pleasant’s elected officials. The purpose of this event was to provide our community with an opportunity for all of you to hear from our elected officials on this issue and others. I’m sure that there are a wide range of reactions to the responses of the panelists. That said, in my closing remarks, I made a strong plea for more parental and local control on school/health matters as well as an articulated and sensible “off ramp” to the mask mandate. Thank you to all those who attended. Whatever your position is, please use the contact information on our District’s Advocacy page to continue to express your thoughts and concerns. 

What is the legal status of the mask mandate at the State level?

  • There has been a great deal of ambiguity surrounding the mask mandate since its onset which has been made even more complicated for all school districts with the recent litigation that is currently before the Appellate Division. 
  • What is unequivocally clear at this time is that all school districts are legally required to adhere to and enforce the Governor’s mask mandate at least until February 21, 2022.
  • Masks on buses are a Federal requirement from the CDC and Department of Health and Human Services and must be worn until further notice.

What is the status of the mask mandate in Mount Pleasant?

  • As far as we know, next week will be the final week we will need to enforce the mask mandate before we leave for the February break. Of course, we will continue to monitor the situation and update the community accordingly. 
  • Ultimately, I agree that certain aspects related to the implementation and enforcement of masking in our schools are inconsistent, confusing and frustrating for all involved. 
  • Simply put, masks are not optional at this time and we are required to keep the mandate in place until such time as the State lifts the mandate or a court order directs school districts to discontinue enforcement of the mask mandate.

What are the consequences for not following the mask mandate?

  • Please see Education Law Section 306 which outlines the significant penalties that could be imposed. 
  • As stated above, I firmly believe that school districts should have more local control over this issue, but the District does not have the authority to deviate from our legal obligations. Doing so places the District in legal as well as financial jeopardy. 
  • Indeed, the State Education Department has already admonished and threatened the imposition of such penalties upon certain school districts who attempted to deviate from this mandate earlier this school year. Those districts reversed course and others implemented the mandate pending litigation.

What’s happening in our schools?

  • Over the past several days, students have been arriving at school without masks. These actions have created confusion, anxiety, and tension among students, staff and administrators throughout the system. 
  • We have unfortunately begun to reach the point where it is becoming increasingly more difficult to sustain and focus on our mission of providing high quality instruction and creating a thriving learning environment for our students. 
  • Moving forward, students will be provided with masks upon arrival and will be asked to make every effort to wear them throughout the day. Teachers have been negotiating this with students individually and collectively with success all year. We ask that your children continue to be respectful and compliant. 

What is our request to all of you?

  • Based upon all of the above, until the mandate is lifted, we are asking that you partner with us until there is definitive closure regarding this matter. We understand and appreciate that this is a volatile situation and we certainly have no desire to create any sort of controversy amongst our parents and students. However, as is true with this and any other State mandate, and put simply, we cannot defy a court order and must always adhere to our legal obligations. To do otherwise would be reckless and in direct opposition to all of the counsel we have received from our attorneys.
  • Our school staff is very much in an uncomfortable middle on this matter. To that end, I ask that we not put our teachers and administrators in the position of making the difficult choice of either asking our children to defy their parents or knowingly placing the District in legal jeopardy by defying a court order and/or legal mandate. 
  • Please know that we will work with our building leaders and teachers to prepare for the time that masks will become optional. I believe that it is coming. This needs to be done in a thoughtful and timely manner with students.

The end is in sight, and as a District, we are asking for your help. We will be on February break in one short week. Please help us so that we can finish strong.   

If you’re watching, enjoy the Super Bowl, the Olympics, and/or anything in between!!

Very truly yours,

Dr. Peter Giarrizzo

Superintendent of Schools