Schools can choose to ditch masks when outdoors

Section VII districts can nix athlete mask rule

Alicia Brandes photo Lake Placid’s Katie Coursen takes aim at the plate while pitching during the Blue Bombers varsity baseball game against Plattsburgh on Saturday, May 22.

After a weekend of mixed messages on mask-wearing at schools, Gov. Andrew Cuomo released an official guidance on Tuesday, June 8 allowing districts to choose to lift mask requirements for students and staff when they are outdoors.

Starting Wednesday, June 9, all of the school districts within Section X athletics, which includes Tupper Lake, will no longer require masks at outdoor athletic events.

Section VII athletics has yet to issue a guidance on masks at outdoor games, but administrators from local districts in the section — Saranac Lake and Lake Placid — say their districts can make the decision for their own athletes. They hope Section VII will issue an official guidance lifting masks for outdoor sports soon, too. As for now, they’re making mask decisions for each meet and game individually.

Tri-Lakes districts

School superintendents in Tupper Lake and Lake Placid said both districts have adopted the new outdoor no-mask guidance.

Masks and distancing are still required when inside or on buses.

Saranac Lake Central School District Superintendent Diane Fox said the school board will vote on the guidance at its meeting tonight. She said committees with community and staff representatives support the new guidance.

“We’re getting to the end, and this is all good news for next year,” Fox said.

Tupper Lake Central School District Superintendent Russ Bartlett said he also looks forward the removal of more coronavirus restrictions, which Cuomo has promised will come when 70% of New York adults are at least partially vaccinated.

“Any relief we get is relief,” Bartlett said.

Section VII

Administrators from schools in Section VII are waiting to hear a final guidance from the section, but they also don’t have to wait on the section to start unmasking their own athletes.

“There’s a bit of a hierarchy in that the districts override the section,” Fox said.

She said districts in the section have tried to have a unified plan throughout the pandemic. Lake Placid Central School District Superintendent Roger Catania said Section VII was asking districts their thoughts on Tuesday, trying to find a consensus. Catania and Fox both hoped the districts will all agree to ditch the masks for outdoor sports.

“Especially as the weather gets warmer, they’re trying to perform at their highest level at the end of the season,” Catania said. “Given the increased safety, I think it’s time to allow our student athletes to play without their masks.”

“I say we follow the science,” Saranac Lake Athletics Director Eric Bennett said. “If the science says it’s safe, then let’s do it.”

For now, districts are reaching agreements about masks before starting games or meets.

Catania said he was at a Saranac Lake versus Plattsburgh track meet in Saranac Lake on Tuesday afternoon — his son runs for Saranac Lake — and was seeing runners with masks. He said Lake Placid Athletic Director John Burdick was coordinating with Beekmantown officials before their track meet at the Lake Placid horse show grounds later on Tuesday.

“Right now it’s a game-by-game situation,” Catania.

He said they’d try to match what the other team is doing.

Fox and Bennett both said this year they’ve played under whatever the host school’s rules are.