Letter to Governor Hochul


Letter to Governor Hochul

February 4, 2022


February 4, 2022

The Honorable Kathy Hochul
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224


Dear Governor Hochul,

As a follow-up to our May 26, 2021 communication to former Health Commissioner Zucker and our subsequent June 12, 2021 letter to former Governor Cuomo, the Warwick Valley Central School District and its Board of Education request that you allow us to permit mask-wearing to be optional based on our local evidence and community input.

Since the pandemic began, we have learned a great deal and continue to recognize our school district’s critical role in limiting community transmission. To date, evidence indicates that the District’s multi-layered prevention strategies have been consistently implemented, as transmission within schools has been limited. Fortunately, COVID vaccines are highly effective at preventing serious illness. All faculty, staff, and students now have access to vaccines. Due to vaccination and the Omicron variant’s relative mildness, the risk of severe consequences at this time has significantly decreased.

The Board is aware that the school district is required to follow state laws and regulations. We recognize that differing perspectives on mask-wearing exist within communities across the country. Neither perspective is necessarily wrong. What one parent deems to be an acceptable risk or a worthwhile mitigation strategy may be deemed unacceptable by another. However, parents and educators continue to report that mandatory mask-wearing has had a negative effect on their children. Given the decreased risk associated with this variant and that in our community, the Omicron surge has reduced significantly; we have an opportunity to return to a level of normalcy.

Throughout the pandemic, New York State has strongly encouraged community input on public health issues, including the school reopening process in the fall of 2020 and 2021. At every stage of the nearly two-year process, we consulted with community members. Our District conducted a survey of faculty, staff, and families in June, and an overwhelming 81.6 percent said that if New York State allowed optional mask wearing in schools, our families would also support the District adopting the policy. The District provided the option to all families who enrolled in our summer program.

We appreciate the state’s revisions so far to its public health guidance as we’ve begun to emerge from the pandemic. While our Board of Education and administration understand the mandatory nature of statewide health regulations, and that failure on the part of the District to comply with them would expose us to sanctions and liability, we respectfully ask that as you reevaluate your guidance, you consider the feedback our community has provided us.

The Warwick Valley Central School District Board of Education fully understands the importance of providing a safe and healthy learning environment for students and staff. We take this responsibility seriously and have worked with district stakeholders to develop a safe reopening plan appropriate for our community. To maintain this safe environment, we will continue to implement many of the safeguards that have been in place since the start of the 2020-2021 school year.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Board of Education – Warwick Valley Central School District

Keith Parsons, President
Eilleen Gagliano, Vice President
Sharon Davis
Bill Fanos
John Garcia
Denise Ginley
Robert Howe
Lynn Lillian
Dory Masefield

cc:       Karl Brabenec, Assemblyman
            Dr. Irina Gelman, Orange County Commissioner of Health 
            Sean Patrick Maloney, Representative
            Michael Martucci, Senator
            Steven Neuhaus, Orange County Executive
            James Skoufis, Senator
            Colin Schmitt, Assemblyman
            Orange County School Boards Association


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