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Chenango Forks school board will scrap mask mandate as soon as legally possible

Students at Chenango Forks would be among the first in the region to unmask if the statewide mandate is lifted. (Megan Zerez/WSKG)
Students at Chenango Forks would be among the first in the region to unmask if the statewide mandate is lifted. (Megan Zerez/WSKG)
CF Masks WEB

ITHACA, NY (WSKG) — The school board at Chenango Forks Central School District voted unanimously this month to end the district's mask requirement as soon as the statewide mandate is lifted.

Masks are still required in New York schools until the current statewide mandate expires in early March. Governor Kathy Hochul isexpected to make a decision on a potential extension of that mandate in the coming days.

"I think the parent choice is important," said board member Christine Webb. "I think the time has come, especially if [Hochul] is going to review [the school mask mandate] in March."

The resolution, which passed during the board's latest meeting on February 10, would amend the district’s re-entry plan to reflect the change. At the time of publication, no changes have been made yet on the district's website.

During the meeting, Superintendent Thomas Burkhardt said COVID-19 cases in the district have declined since the omicron spike earlier this winter.

State data shows about a quarter of tests conducted by the district since the beginning of the month were positive, though that data does not reflect at-home test results.

When contacted, Burkhardt declined to comment on the board's new resolution.

Board members also expressed interest in drafting a letter to the governor asking her to lift the school mask mandate, and let parents decide whether or not their children would have to wear masks.

"It's just a letter to Governor Hochul saying that we’re hopeful that you end [the school mask mandate] as soon as possible," said board member Mike Vavra. "You know, the time has come."

Vavra and other board members said they took inspiration from a school board at Warwick Valley Central School District in the Hudson Valley. Board members there have sent multiple letters to Governor Hochul criticizing the statewide school mask mandate.

Warwick Valley was also the site ofrecent anti-mask rallies and a school walkout. Conservative activists in the Southern Tier have also staged similar rallies.

Chenango Forks Superintendent Tom Burkhardt declined to comment on the resolution.

The CDC has continued to recommend masking when indoors in areas of high transmission.