Close up Mr. Rich smiling, shirt and tie

These last few days have been highly emotional and confusing.

It began Monday evening when the Nassau County Supreme Court ruled that the governor and the New York State Department of Health had overstepped their authority regarding mask mandates. On Tuesday, the governor filed an appeal with the New York State Appellate Division, Second Department. The appellate court ruled the mask mandate could remain in effect—at least until January 28, 2022 when the court hears arguments from both sides. This means that everyone in school must continue wearing masks.

I understand the full range of arguments for and against masking. I also understand that some may want us to take a particular stand concerning masks. Please understand that we cannot. As public school officials, we take an oath to follow the New York State education law. That law requires we follow the rules passed down by the Education Department. So for now, everyone in school must wear a mask until the courts ultimately decide the case.

This debate is exhausting. We come to work every day, knowing that we will never please everyone. To some, we have been overly restrictive and too willing to “follow the rules. To others, we have not been strict enough when enforcing the rules designed to keep our schools safe.

After nearly two years on the “front lines,” we are tired. Throughout this pandemic, we transported, fed, and even clothed our students. We hyper-cleaned and reconfigured and repurposed our spaces. We redirected funds to buy Chromebooks and software, helped families who lack internet access, and learned to use technology in ways we never dreamed. We supported children and adults struggling with isolation and worry. We consoled parents who lost time at work due to their families’ COVID exposure. We contact traced, COVID tested, and quarantined. We adapted each time someone asked us to take on a new responsibility. We have done our best to follow the ever-changing guidance from health and education leaders, trying their best to respond to the disease.

As I said, we are tired. Teachers, administrators, teaching assistants, aides, food service workers, facilities and grounds staff, bus drivers, nurses, and office employees have worked nonstop to keep schools open and safe. Like everyone, we long for a return to something that resembles normal. When and what that looks like remains to be seen. The courts will ultimately decide where we head next.

In the meantime, we will try our best to remain faithful to our calling—to educate this community’s children. After all, isn’t that what schools are really meant to do?

Thank you for your patience, your understanding, and your continued support. Together we will get through this.

Jeremy Rich
Superintendent of Schools