After a weekend of mixed messages about wearing masks in schools, Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday released official guidelines allowing districts to choose to waive mask requirements for students and staff when they are outside.
As the playoffs begin tonight, all school districts in Section X, which includes Tupper Lake, will no longer need masks at outdoor sporting events.
Section VII athletics has yet to issue mask guidelines for outdoor games, but administrators from the section’s local districts – Saranac Lake and Lake Placid – say their districts can make the decision to their own athletes. They hope that Section VII will soon issue an official guideline on lifting masks for outdoor sports. For now, they’re making mask decisions for each encounter and match individually.
Tupper Lake and Lake Placid school superintendents said both districts have adopted the new no-mask outdoor directive.
Masks and distancing are always required indoors or on buses.
Saranac Lake Central School District Superintendent Diane Fox said the school board will vote on the guidelines at its meeting tonight. She said committees with community and staff representatives support the new direction.
“We’re coming to the end, and that’s good news for next year” Fox said.
Tupper Lake Central School District Superintendent Russ Bartlett said he also looks forward to the removal of more restrictions on coronaviruses, which Cuomo has promised to come when 70% of New York’s adults are at least partially vaccinated.
“Any relief we get is relief” Bartlett said.
With the new Section X guidelines in mind, mask requirements will be removed for all athletes, coaches, officials, event staff and spectators at outdoor events.
There will also no longer be a limit of two spectators per athlete, as before. However, everyone is still encouraged to maintain a 6-foot distance from people outside of their home, and school districts will still need to follow the rules regarding capacity limits at events.
“With the weather getting warmer, we are all happy to be able to get rid of masks during games. “ said Carl Normandin, Executive Director of Section X.
Section VII school administrators are waiting to hear the latest direction from the section, but they also don’t have to wait for the section to start unmasking their own athletes.
“There is a bit of hierarchy insofar as the districts take precedence over the section”, Fox said.
She said the section’s districts have tried to have a unified plan throughout the pandemic. Lake Placid Central School District Superintendent Roger Catania said Section VII was asking districts for their thoughts on Tuesday, trying to find consensus. Catania and Fox both hoped that the districts would all agree to ditch masks for outdoor sports.
“Especially since the weather is getting warmer, they are trying to perform at their highest level at the end of the season” said Catania. “With the increased security, I think it’s time to allow our student athletes to play without their masks. “
“I say we follow science” Saranac Lake athletic director Eric Bennett said. “If science says it’s safe, then let’s do it.”
For now, the districts are reaching agreements on the masks before starting the games or meetings.
Catania said he was at an athletics meet between Saranac Lake and Plattsburgh in Saranac Lake on Tuesday afternoon – his son is running for Saranac Lake – and was seeing runners in masks. He said Lake Placid athletic director John Burdick was coordinating with Beekmantown officials ahead of their track and field meet at the Lake Placid horse show later Tuesday.
“Right now, it’s a match-by-match situation” Catania.
He said they would try to match what the other team is doing.
Fox and Bennett both said this year that they played by host school rules.