LAKE RONKONKOMA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) –In a confusing policy reversal, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday that school districts can allow students to remove masks outdoors.

This, he claims, aligns New York state’s guidance on schools with CDC guidance on summer camps, but it is leaving many parents befuddled, confused and angry.

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As CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reported, Azali Jean-Louis of Cedarhurst is almost 5.

“It protects me from COVID,” she said of her mask.

Mask wearing must still remain a part of daily life in her school.


“We are waiting and seeing. The whole thing is confusing. The whole COVID thing is confusing. One day it’s mask, next day not mask,” said parent Felix Jean-Louis.

Some parents are up in arms. Following weeks of mask revolts, at least three Long Island school districts are bucking the CDC and state, announcing mask wearing for them is now optional.

“Sometimes it’s torture,” said 7-year-old Kaylynn Devine.

The Sachem school district first grader is not a mask fan.

“I have to go down to take my inhaler after gym and it’s hot,” she said.

“I can’t breathe properly in the masks,” said student Adrianna Buttermark.

“It’s getting better. They have the vaccines and stuff, it’s also very hot,” said 4th grader Leo Malino.

“They need to get back to seeing smiles,” said Kellie Malino.

“They’ve been under a lot for the past year. It’s time to get back to normal,” said James Glick.

But others disagree, erring more on the cautious side, wanting kids to leave masks on for now.

“For the children. I think they should because they haven’t been vaccinated,” said mother Rosalie Buckhardt.

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One mother of four says her oldest child in middle school is still indifferent.

“She said, I think I may wear it and then take it off,” said Jacqui Cusumano.


Sachem school district is one of the largest to allow choice.

“This is not necessarily an act of defiance for us to the state. But confusion,” said Alex Piccirillo, president of the Sachem school board.

Friday, the New York state Department of Health sent a letter to the CDC that said beginning Monday, mask wearing would be optional for K-12 students. Sunday, the state Department of Education pulled back, saying mask rules must stay in place, for now.

Monday, Cuomo reversed again, saying no masks outside, yes masks inside.

“There is no mandate for masks outside. We’ll leave that up to the local school districts,” Cuomo said.

“School officials are really caught in a difficult position. Seemingly contradictory statements coming out from the state, taking a volatile issue and shaking it up,” said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran.

There are just three weeks left in the year.

“We are already discussing what the fall will look like. We would like some guidance from either the governor or state education department. Are we going to be virtual? Are we going to be hybrid? Are we going to be fully in person? We need to know that now,” said Dr. Robert Dillon, superintendent of Nassau BOCES.

There are cost implications for whatever decision is made for September. Many parents are demanding their districts make local policy.

In New York City, things aren’t changing. Public schools will continue with its universal mask policy, for now.

“The more people get vaccinated, the more freedom we’re going to have. But for now, the plan is to keep mass on kids. Abundance of caution, and I think that’s the right approach,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

The New York state teacher’s union called the change “whiplash-inducing news” with just three weeks left to go in the school year.

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CBS2’s John Dias contributed to this report. 

Jennifer McLogan