Under some district's plans, even in the Utica area, students will wear a mask into class, then remove it when seated. The union that represents teachers in New York says that's not good enough.

In a letter to New York's Health Commissioner, New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) Andy Pallotta says students must be required to wear masks at all times, even when social distancing. The letter asks the state to step in and mandate mask wearing at all times while students are in school.

Districts across the state are heading back to class after being closed to in-person instruction back in March. Most are starting with hybrid instruction, with some opting for all virtual instruction.

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Dr. Jana Shaw, a Syracuse pediatrician specializing in infectious diseases at Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital says “the science is clear that masks are among the most effective ways we can reduce the spread of this virus." She says a mask mandate is critical to keeping kids safe. "It’s essential that schools do everything in their power to help keep children and adults safe in school buildings so they can focus on their education in a healthy environment."

Some districts are allowing students "mask breaks" - a few minutes each day where they can remove their masks during class time.

NYSUT also says it would be difficult for teachers to walk freely around the classroom and help students on a individual basis without all students wearing masks.