Catholic schools seek to make mask-wearing optional

January 26, 2022 Jaime DeJesus
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Masks off in class?

Catholic Schools of Brooklyn and Queens on Jan. 25 sent a letter, written by Msgr. David Cassato, vicar for Catholic schools,  and Thomas Chadzutko, superintendent of  Catholic school support services, 

to parents and faculty stating the umbrella organization’s desire to make mask-wearing optional.

On Monday, Nassau County Justice Thomas Rademaker ruled that the statewide mandate ordering students and staff to wear masks in schools is unconstitutional and cannot be enforced. The following day, Justice Robert J. Miller of the Appellate Division, Second Department, in Brooklyn temporarily placed a stay on the ruling while the matter goes through the appeals process, reinstating the state’s indoor mask mandate, at least for now.

Msgr. Cassato spoke to this publication on Wednesday, after Justice Miller’s action, stating that it’s time to give parents and students an option to wear masks.

“There’s been very little spread in schools,” he said. “We are doing a fine job. We’ve been open since September 2020. We do it with an abundance of caution. We tell the kids if you don’t feel well to stay home. 

“When you come in, get a temperature check. There are a whole lot of precautions that we’re taking every single day. Sanitizing the schools every night. I think it’s time. And if you feel that you need a mask, wear one,” he said. 

Cassato also mentioned the contradiction of certain venues not requiring masks.

Children and a teacher wear masks in class. The overall organization for NYC Catholic Schools wants to make mask wearing optional. AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File

“You sit in a restaurant, you’re sitting next to each other without masks,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense. If parents have that need, they can use the mask. One of the most difficult things for a teacher is to read what’s going on. When you wear a mask, it’s very hard to see what goes on in kids.”

Gov. Kathy Hochul had imposed the indoor mask mandate rule last month during a surge in COVID-19 cases.

“My top priority is protecting the people of this state,” Hochul tweeted on Jan. 25. “Mask regulations are critical to prevent the spread of COVID-19, make schools and businesses safe, and save lives. We will not stop fighting to protect New Yorkers, and we are confident we will continue to prevail.”

The controversy is now in the Appellate Division, as was previously mentioned. The letter from Catholic Schools said that because Judge Miller has stayed the original judgment, at this time all schools must comply with the mask mandate. 

“It is our fervent hope for the Catholic academies and parish schools in the Diocese of Brooklyn that the mask mandate will be eliminated, which would allow our schools to make mask wearing optional based upon local circumstances,” the letter read. 

“If the appellate courts could strike down the mask mandate, our schools and academics will immediately be able to make masks optional. However, until the appellate courts render a final decision, our Catholic academies and parish schools must follow the state mask mandate,” it continued.

Locals took to social media to discuss the ongoing debate and decisions.

“My kids attend a school within the diocese and none of the kids ever complain about wearing masks,” said one Facebook user. “Why are parents making this about themselves?”

Another replied, “Kids get used to ALL kinds of things that aren’t good for them … doesn’t make it right. Truth is, kids are, and always have been, at extremely low risk for serious disease. They are also poor vectors for spread. They should never have been unilaterally masked/vaxxed.”

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