Mask opponents urge C-R to fight mandates


By Jim Poole

Cobleskill-Richmondville parents, teachers and like-minded supporters Monday night urged the school board to fight the COVID mask mandate and what they saw as a soon-to-come vaccination mandate.
About 30 mask opponents crowded the board meeting, which was moved from the Golding School library to the cafeteria to accommodate the overflow.
School board members, however, weren’t ready to take a stand on masks and pointed out that they have no say on it because the mandate is statewide.
Nonetheless, speaker after speaker pushed for support from the board and administration to object to the state mandate.
“I know your hands are tied, but we have to start somewhere,” said Cobleskill resident Joe Tracy.
“If you’re not going to stand up for our kids’ freedom, tell us,” added Holly Shamansky.
Radez teacher Erin Loitsch called the mask mandate “arbitrary,” adding that people at the meeting were “strongly opposed to mandates.”
Resident Arvid Oksa agreed and argued there’s no proof that masks are effective.
“Where is the science behind this mask preventing COVID?” Mr. Oksa asked, pointing to the mask he was wearing.
“If you can’t show me the science, it’s not normal behavior.”
And Jenna Malette argued that school board members approaching Albany could get further than individual parents.
The mask issue has two sides, Superintendent Carl Mummenthey said, and there may be as many pro-mask parents as there are anti-maskers.
“This is very much a push-pull,” he said.
As for claims that C-R is getting money for masking staff and students and funds for testing, Mr. Mummenthey responded there’s “no financial incentive.”
Speakers also slammed a potential vaccination mandate they believed may be coming in the next few months.
“What if anything is the school district doing to send a message to the Governor that a vaccination mandate is not in our interest?” asked teacher Danielle Chamberlain.
Mr. Mummenthey said C-R could check with state superintendents and school boards association to see whether they have a stance on masks and vaccinations.
But he added that many in the district support masks and vaccinations.
“One challenge on masks, vaccination and testing is that the community is not speaking with one voice,” Mr. Mummenthey said. “Some support vaccinations.”
Other speakers were particularly upset that a vaccination clinic was to be held at Ryder School on Tuesday.
“If I find out my kid gets vaccinated, I’m coming after all of you,” threatened Elyssa Herzog.
The Schoharie County Health Department hosted the clinic through a contract with the school district, and “the clinic is a convenience for those who want to get vaccinated,” Board President Bruce Tryon responded.
Mr. Tryon went further: “I want to emphasize that a COVID vaccination is not mandated for students or staff members, and parental permission is required in order for a child younger than 18 to be vaccinated.”