State education commissioner fires back at Dept. of Health over lack of school guidance
State Commissioner of Education Betty Rosa is firing back at the state Department of Health Thursday over its lack of guidance for Long Island schools with the new school year quickly approaching.
Rosa sent a letter asking Commissioner Howard Zucker to consider the Department of Health's statutory responsibilities as the state agency devoted to protecting the public health, especially when it comes to COVID-19.
Susan Kowalksi, of Smithtown, is just one of many parents frustrated trying to navigate the changing COVID-19 polices.
"I have an incoming freshman and an incoming seventh grader and they're dying to go back to school full time -- maskless, hopefully," says Kowalski.
The state Department of Education confirms that neither the governor's office, nor the state Department of Health will be issuing guidance on the reopening of schools, leaving it up to the districts.
At a Massapequa School Board meeting Thursday, a crowd of parents applauded one mom who said her children will not be wearing a mask regardless of what the guidance is.
Cuomo's office says the education commissioner released a memo last week that points to the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance. It states that due to the highly transmissible delta variant, the CDC recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to schools regardless of vaccination status.
Oceanside's school superintendent issued a statement saying, "We are clearly disappointed that at this date guidance is not forthcoming. Local school boards and superintendents throughout the state will do what they always do: make decisions in the best interest of children and staff. However, given that this is a health issue, we continue to invite clear direction."
The Jericho School District has already implemented a policy that states masks must be worn by all students, staff and visitors.
The Department of Education also pointed to the findings of Cuomo's sexual harassment probe saying, "The circumstances enveloping the Executive Chamber this week should not prevent the Department of Health from the execution of its responsibilities to the public that has been promised by the governor's office for months."
In a statement issued Thursday afternoon, Zucker said, "With the end of the state disaster emergency on June 25, 2021, school districts are reestablished as the controlling entity for schools. Schools and school districts should develop plans to open in-person in the fall as safely as possible, and I recommend following guidance from the CDC and local health departments."