Masks are front and center––and mandatory––in Cobleskill-Richmondville’s reopening plan.
The school board Monday night adopted what’s called the Layered Mitigation Plan, which has varied protocols depending on whether Schoharie County is high level or lower for COVID.
Expecting a crowd of parents to protest mask use, the board met in the Golding cafeteria, but few parents attended. The low turnout probably stemmed from the state’s mask mandate that took the decision away from local authorities.
“It’s a formal determination of mask use for all regardless of vaccination status,” said Superintendent Carl Mummenthey.
“It does appear to have the full force of law.”
Right now, the state mandate doesn’t allow for the mask breaks that were permitted last year. Several parents Monday said the breaks were essential.
C-R will seek to get a state answer on breaks before school opens on Tuesday, Mr. Mummenthey said.
Otherwise, he added, the strategy “is to get students outside daily as often as we can to get fresh air.
“We hope to get an answer on mask breaks by opening day.”
Masks are only mandatory indoors; outdoors, masks are a personal choice, Mr. Mummenthey said.
Asked by board member Aimee Yorke whether students would be punished for not wearing masks, Mr. Mummenthey said that “it’s a safety issue, not a discipline issue.
“We don’t envision massive numbers of detentions,” he added. “This is a community issue.”
One other change to C-R’s plan is that there must be a distance of three feet, not six feet, between students and a teacher, board member Susan Strasser pointed out.
Another shift is in testing. Previously, C-R’s plan called for testing only non-vaccinated students and staff when the county’s at high- or substantial-level of COVID transmission.
The approved plan now includes vaccinated students and staff at those levels.
The ‘layered’ aspect of C-R’s plan allows for relaxing of protocols if the county is at a low transmission level. For instance, at the low level, there’s no testing and there are minimal restrictions for visitors.
Mr. Mummenthey noted that the pandemic has gone through peaks and valleys of positive cases, and if positives decrease, it’s possible the state would relax its mask mandate.
Schoharie County, however, is now at a high transmission level, Mr. Mummenthey said. The seven-day average is 42-44 cases, and the county is at a seven-percent positive level, he said.
“The most recent movement is up, not down,” Mr. Mummenthey said.
And although he believes C-R’s plan will be effective, Mr. Mummenthey observed that “There is no perfect line of defense for this pandemic.”
Board President Bruce Tryon praised the district’s reopening task force for its work on the COVID issue and said “this is the best plan we could possibly have.”