Baldwin district approves reopening plans

Baldwin to continue school mask mandate


The Baldwin Board of Education held a special meeting Aug. 23 at which members voted on the district’s 2021-22 reopening plan, which will follow State Department of Education and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance.

Recommendations from the state and CDC include:

  • Universal indoor masking by all students age 2 and older, staff members, teachers and visitors to kindergarten through 12th grade schools, regardless of vaccination status.
  • Maintaining at least 3 feet of distance between students within classrooms.
  • Screening testing.
  • Handwashing.
  • Staying home when ill.
  • Contact tracing with quarantining, isolating and disinfection.

The board also unanimously voted to give Superintendent Dr. Shari Camhi sole discretion to amend the reopening plan if circumstances require that changes to it be made before the next regularly scheduled Board of Education meeting. Otherwise, the board would be involved.

Throughout the pandemic, the district had aired on the side of caution when it comes to mask wearing, even for summer school. “Students and staff in the Baldwin Union Free School District have continued to wear their masks during the summer months to help keep the infection rate low,” Camhi said.

The state guidelines are recommendations, not mandates. After lifting the Covid-19 state of emergency declaration in June, then Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said he lacked the legal authority to impose a mask mandate without it.

Incoming Gov. Kathy Hochul said she would like to see a mask requirement in schools after she takes over as governor on Tuesday. “I've done the due diligence to determine the authority that is vested in the Department of Health,” Hochul said in Hauppauge after meeting with the Long Island Federation of Labor on Aug. 20.

The state released the “State Education Department Issues Health and Safety Guide to Reopen New York State Schools” on Aug. 12, in which it lists strategies and best practices for the safe reopening of schools, based on CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics information.

NYSED Commissioner Betty Rosa said, “Reopening amidst a pandemic for the second consecutive year is truly a daunting task. Our hope is that this guide, coupled with the input of local health officials, will help the state’s education community as they prepare for September.”

While the CDC and NYSED prioritize returning to in-person learning, they suggest caution in reopening because of the circulating and highly contagious Delta variant. They encourage schools to promote vaccination, as it’s the leading public health prevention strategy.

On Aug. 4, the CDC updated its guidance to include a recommendation that vaccinated people who are suspected or known to have been exposed to someone with Covid-19 be tested three to five days after exposure, regardless of whether they have symptoms.

The CDC and NYSED emphasize implementing layering strategies, or using more than one prevention approach, as students under 12 are not yet eligible for the vaccination.

NYSED does not require remote education when schools reopen full-time in person; however, they recommend districts “work with students and families to offer remote options if it is deemed to be in the best educational interest of the student.”