Saranac Lake schools can go maskless outdoors

SARANAC LAKE — The school district here is now letting students and staff take off their masks when outside, following a new guidance from the state.

Other districts in the area — including Lake Placid and Tupper Lake — have already updated their outdoor mask guidances.

After some confusion over the weekend, New York state issued an official guidance on Tuesday allowing districts to choose to lift mask requirements for students and staff when they are outdoors.

The board approved this after wide support from the district’s community groups. Superintendent Diane Fox said that because of the evident consensus, she took the liberty earlier that afternoon to nix the outdoor mask mandate so students could compete in athletic events that evening without the face coverings.

Athletic Director Eric Bennett had asked her to take up the vote soon after the meeting began at 5:30 p.m. since the school had multiple home and away games against other Section VII schools which were going maskless. Fox felt it would be strange to wear a mask for the first half of a game and not the last half, so she approved the new rule herself before the meeting.

“I try never to get out in front of the Board of Education. It’s just never good form,” Fox said. “But it was pretty unusual, and I felt pretty confident that that’s where the vote was going.”

The board also approved this when it updated its reopening and spring sports plan.

Board members indoors were all wearing masks during the meeting. Fox said she hopes to return to school in September without masks indoors or out.

Board member Jeremy Evans was glad athletes were able to be unmasked on Wednesday, but he said it was “insane” how long the state Education Department took to issue the outdoor no-mask rule.

“Watching track kids for the last month … next door, watching kids playing tennis, wearing masks, while the rest of the world has already decided things are back to normal, strains credibility,” Evans said.

Evans said he is someone with faith in institutions, government and science, but he has struggled to comprehend why it took so long for the state to allow children to unmask outdoors — especially, he said, when children are less prone to fall ill with the virus or transmit it.

“I can’t understand how we’ve treated our children so much different than grown-ups,” he said. “I’ve been one of those people trying to be patient.”

Evans was visibly frustrated and said he’d end his comments before he said anything “too offensive” about the decision-makers.

Board President Aurora White said she spoke with a parent who wanted the board to pay attention to the kids in their masks and how difficult it is for them to keep them on outside and inside all day.


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