Masks debated at Central District BOE meeting | Herald Community Newspapers

A small crowd gathered outside Brookside School in Merrick on Jan. 12, eager to attend the Bellmore-Merrick Central School District’s first school board meeting of the new year.

Community members and families who attended the event came out to discuss Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman’s recent executive order regarding the school district’s mask mandate.

Although the weather was cold, some guests had a heated argument with security before entering for the meeting. Attendees argued over the enforcement of mask mandates inside the venue as security handed out masks.

As the council members began to take their seats on stage, a woman shouted, “Take off the masks!”

Before meetings began, council members called for a minute’s silence for the recent fire at a Bronx apartment building that killed 17 people, including eight children.

Beginning the evening’s agenda, BOE members presented eighth grader Luke Fischetti with a certificate honoring his volunteerism at the Bellmore Lions Club’s Polar Express event where the children received gifts and other surprises.

Later that evening, the VEX High School robotics team demonstrated their robot picking up “rings,” or rings that look like Pringles. This project will be entered in a robotics competition at the end of the month. According to the team, this year’s entry is one of their most complex bots and they plan to add more designs to the “ringle” collector.

Council then passed a series of motions, all uncontested, and opened the floor to public comment. Given three minutes each to voice their concerns, Bellmore-Merrick parents and residents discussed the mask mandate in the Central District.

“At some point, weeks, months or years from now, the adults in this room and those on stage will look back on the past few years and realize the kind of emotional, mental, academic and psychological damage inflicted on our children at the hands of ‘an arbitrary, illogical and clearly inefficient government,’ a father of three who attends different schools in the district told the council. “Excessive and sadistic efforts that condition our children to be submissive, antisocial and germaphobic.”

The parent continued to address the council because of the mask’s mandate and hinted that the council would rather “learn the hard way, than be thoughtful and humble enough to learn from history”.

Although masks do not offer total protection against Covid-19, surgical masks are better than nothing and research conducted throughout the pandemic confirms this. A study published in the American Society for Microbiology Journals in October 2020, determined that surgical masks reduce the amount of Covid-19 inhaled by the mask wearer by approximately 50%.

The parents asked the board for their response and shamed them for “following orders”. Board members responded that they would discuss the matter later, as public comments are not trades. This was met with remarks from the public, who claimed the council would not respond to parents.

Security roamed the auditorium throughout the meeting, asking guests to wear their masks properly, and board members asked the public to be considerate during the public comment session.

At the end of the board meeting, board members spoke of their inability to immediately answer their questions or override state policies on Covid precautions. Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District Superintendent Mike Harrington previously told the Herald that the district was unsure of the legality of Blakeman’s executive order.

The next regular BOE meeting is scheduled for February 2 at Brookside School in Merrick.

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