NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. — As soon as Monday night's court decision came down about the statewide mask mandate, school districts started emailing families telling them to send students to school with masks on Tuesday morning.
Late Monday night, the New York State Education Department issued a statement saying schools have to continue following the mask rules. So at schools across Western New York, including Niagara Falls City Schools, staff and students were still wearing masks on Tuesday. Superintendent Mark Laurrie told 2 On Your Side that the majority of people in his community are handling the situation fine. He also told us that the district is seeing its COVID-19 numbers go down, and he says there's a slight uptick in vaccinations.
Laurrie thinks the mask policy will remain in place for the near future.
"We have to stay the course as a school district. Keep calm. Know that it's being handled. Communicate the status, and hopefully, very soon this will become a local decision and in our case a decision to be made by our Board of Education. So, you could almost see the light at the tunnel. It's time that we get away from these kinds of distractions, and this is really a distraction without a firm stance on what's going to happen," Laurrie said.
Laurrie did say he got some phone calls Tuesday about the mask issue.
"98% of our parents have been more than cooperative and understanding. With the unrest and sometimes civil discourse that's going on in the world, and possibly in a community, this is not an issue that we need to keep being divided on. Let's stay the course. Let's get a clear definition, and let's move forward. We've had a pretty good day even though I have received a number of phone calls, but I just ask for patience and for the most part, we've been able to receive that," Laurrie said.
Remember that Niagara County does not have a mask mandate, but the NYS Education Department wants all schools in the state to follow the mask rule.
"I think we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. That we've got to be role models for the behavior of our children. That parents need to know that our children are watching our discussion, our discourse, our body language at all times. We've got to be above that for our kids. While we may disagree, we've got to do it civilly, and we've got to follow the process and procedures that are in place," Laurrie said.
Some school districts downstate did the opposite and told parents that masks were optional at school unless a stay is issued in the court case.