Kendall schools will require masks for students when social distancing not possible

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 August 2021 at 8:25 am

Board of Education approves reopening plan for 2021-22 school year

Photos by Tom Rivers: Nathan Loescher, a parent of three children in Kendall school district, urged the Board of Education to make mask wearing optional for students. “I think it should be a personal choice,” Loescher said during the Board of Education meeting at the junior-senior high school cafeteria.

KENDALL – The Board of Education on Wednesday evening approved a reopening plan that school officials say will have the start of the school year looking much like the year ended last June in terms of Covid restrictions and guidelines.

Students will need to continue wearing masks when social distancing isn’t possible in classrooms. They will be required to wear masks in hallways, common areas, on buses and if they are playing indoor sports such as volleyball. When students are playing outdoor sports, wearing a mask will be optional, Julie Christensen, the district superintendent, said in giving an overview of the reopening plan.

This is the main entrance to the Kendall Junior-Senior High School. The school year will begin with students needing to wear masks when they are closer to 3 feet from another person.

Social distancing is now considered 3 feet instead of 6 feet. That distance was reduced late last school year by the state Department of Health.

Kendall was able to offer in-person education for five days a week last school year and was able to space students out in the classroom at the 6-foot social distancing. The district’s student population has shrunk in recent years and the declining numbers have allowed Kendall to space out students for social distancing.

The district will be offering band, chorus and intramurals. Most students will eat lunch in their classrooms, and some will be in the cafeteria.

The district will have masks available for students. Bus drivers and cafeteria workers will be required to wear them.

The district plans to have some rapid Covid tests that it can administer and get almost immediate feedback if someone is positive for Covid.

“As you know things change on a daily basis,” Christensen said in going over the plan.

She said state and federal guidance from health officials has shifted during the Covid-19 pandemic. Right now the American Academy of Pediatrics, the federal Center for Disease Control and state Education Department are all recommending students, teachers and staff wear masks, regardless of vaccination status.

Christensen also noted that Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who will become governor next week, has said the state may mandate masks for all students.

The Covid cases have been on the rise in Orleans County, the state and country with the spread of the Delta variant. Orleans is currently listed as a “red” zone by the CDC with high community spread of Covid.

“This is all subject to change,” Christensen said about Covid guidelines. “The Delta numbers are quite high.”

Three parents spoke at Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting and encouraged the district to make mask wearing be optional for students. The parents who spoke were respectful, unlike some parents in other districts who have shouted and berated school board members over mask-wearing policies.

Nathan Loescher spoke at Kendall’s meeting. He has three children. He said the mask-wearing policies don’t seem to make sense, especially because people don’t have to wear them indoors at diners and restaurants.

“I think it should be a personal choice,” Loescher told the board.

Two other parents spoke and didn’t like that teachers would be required to wear masks. That makes them harder to understand and students can’t see facial expressions and how teachers mouth words.

A father of two young children in the district said the masks and Covid protocols are making young children too preoccupied with germs, to the point where they are afraid to see relatives including their grandparents.

“We’re scaring the crap out of them,” the father said.

During the Board of Education meeting, which was held in the cafeteria of the junior-senior high school, a group of kids ran by to the soccer field. They were in a close group, laughing and bumping into each other. None wore masks.

The Kendall father said it didn’t seem to make sense that there were no masks on those kids but the district would have a policy to wear masks inside when social distancing not possible.

“There is confusion all over the place,” the father said.