To mask up or not to mask up – that’s the question!
District 18’s Community Education Council (CEC) hosted its virtual monthly session on the same day that Mayor Eric Adams officially lifted mask mandates for New York City school students, rolling back some of the pandemic restrictions for the first time since in-person learning resumed last year.
Superintendent Celeste Douglas confirmed the mayor’s new protocol – with stipulations that children under 5 years old, including those enrolled in pre-K, are still required to wear masks since they are more likely to get sick and these children remain ineligible for vaccination. Teachers in those classrooms are also mandated to mask up.
Additionally, masks are still required to be worn in nurse’s offices and medical rooms.
Students in all other grades have the option of not wearing a mask on and off school grounds. Mask are also optional for visitors, but they must show proof of vaccine before entering the building.
There are academic benefits of unmasking, Superintendent Douglas told the Canarsie Courier, as teachers will be able to better understand children when it comes to certain speech lessons like enunciating their words.
“One instance where not wearing a mask anymore will be beneficial is when our children are learning to read. It becomes a functional issue to be able to see their mouths move and properly pronounce what they’re reading,” said Douglas.
The superintendent reminded everyone that the Department of Education is passing down the directives from the governor and public school recommendations are aligned with the CDC’s updated guidelines.
“Face coverings are optional – so if you still want your child to wear a mask, they can do so,” said Douglas. “If children are making fun of each other for whose face is covered and whose isn’t, we’re treating that the same way as we treat bullying. We have guidance counselors on hand to speak to kids and teach them to respect each other for their individual choices.”
Another pandemic stipulation that’s changed is the removal of social distancing in public spaces including classrooms, cafeterias and auditoriums – unless a person is returning from isolation.
Other protocols will remain in place such as daily screenings, test kit distributions and quarantine mandates when symptoms are consistent with those of COVID-19.
In other good news, CEC18 hopes to meet in person for their April 4th session at their satellite office, 1106 East 96th Street, at 7 p.m. Please call 718-566-6037 closer to the meeting date to confirm any changes.