In-school masking debate leaves Long Island communities deeply divided

Emotions are running high on both sides those for and against a mask mandate as we get closer to the start of the school year.

Parent Barbara Abboud has two children in the Farmingdale School District and doesn’t want them wearing masks again this year. Her District is one of at least four on Long Island that decided to be mask-optional in some capacity this fall.

"My child, my choice. It’s that simple," Abboud said. "It’s 90 degrees. Do you want to sit in a classroom all day like that?"

But that may soon change - now that Governor Kathy Hochul urged state health officials to impose a universal mask requirement in New York schools.

"They don’t have the authority to override parental rights but if it comes down to it, I’ll pull my kids from public education," Abboud said. 

Last week some parents in the Massapequa School District erupted in applause after the Board of Ed decided to make masks optional. Now after Hochul’s announcement, parent Dana Durso is frustrated. She believes her rights are being taken away.

"I’m not sending them to school in masks," she said. "I don’t agree with it. I don’t believe it."

But other parents are in favor of masks being worn in school especially as the delta variant of COVID-19 is causing an increase in pediatric cases and children under 12 are still not eligible for vaccines.

"This isn’t about personal rights," said parent Barbara Krilov. "It’s about public health."

Hank Grishman, superintendent of the Jericho School District told FOX 5 NY that the school board’s decision to require masks for all students and staff was based on science.

"Albany had a responsibility of relying on their Commissioner of Health whose a physician to make the edict that masks work therefore all students and staff in the 720 districts should be wearing masks," he said. 

Many of the districts that are mask-optional right now including Massapequa and Commack aren’t updating their policies until they receive definitive guidance from the State Department of Health expected later on this week.

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