KATONAH/LEWISBORO, NY — Katonah-Lewisboro School District administrators said on Tuesday they no longer have the authority to require masks in classrooms.
UPDATE: Tuesday evening, a New York Appellate Court Judge granted a stay of the earlier court ruling that blocked New York's COVID-19 face mask mandate. The emergency face mask order remains in effect while the case is appealed. New York Schools will be required to enforce the face mask rules.
"As of this moment, the mask mandate is, at least, in some question," Superintendent Andrew Selesnick told families in Tuesday's notice. "As a result, this morning mask wearing is encouraged. Our staff, however, will not challenge those who choose not to wear a mask."
According to Monday's decision by Judge Thomas Rademaker, the law was "promulgated and enacted unlawfully by an executive branch state agency and therefore void and unenforceable as a matter of law."
The decision also said that it does not "opine on the efficacy, need or requirement of masks as a means or tool in dealing with the COVID-19 virus." The issue is only whether or not the rule was properly enacted, the decision said.
Meanwhile, the New York State Department of Education (NYSDE) sent a letter to districts, advising schools that they must keep mask requirements in place in a letter dated Jan. 24:
"The State Education Department understands that Nassau County Supreme Court has ruled that the Department of Health exceeded its authority in enacting the mask regulation, 10 NYCRR 2.60, in Demetriou et al. v. New York State Dep’t of Health et al. This regulation is the subject of conflicting decisions, insofar as Albany County Supreme Court recently upheld the regulation in Massapequa UFSD et al. v. Hochul, et al," the NYSDE wrote in the letter. "It is SED’s understanding that the Department of Health will appeal the Nassau County Supreme Court decision, which will result in an automatic stay that will unambiguously restore the mask rule until such time as an appellate court issues a further ruling. Therefore, schools must continue to follow the mask rule."
Katonah-Lewisboro school officials said that while the district believes its authority to enforce mask rules is restricted for the time being, the situation remains fluid.
"There is every possibility that we will receive greater clarity soon, and I will keep you informed when we learn more," the superintendent told students and families today.