Erie County to enforce mask mandate in schools after reports of students and staff not following order

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ERIE COUNTY N.Y. (WIVB) – Erie county is cracking down on schools that are not following the mask mandate. County executive Mark Poloncarz said the county received reports where students and staff were found not wearing a face mask when inside school buildings.

“We have received reports, we have sent our staff in to check and to confirm and to basically sort of drop the hammer,” he said.

He said during a press conference Wednesday they’ve had issues in the past with some private schools not enforcing mask wearing and that he hopes this will stop that from happening.

“When we have those situations, and I do not want to identify the school, or the schools because they have responded appropriately,” Poloncarz said. “We continue to get occasional calls here and there saying this private school may not be following the rules.”

Officials at Cardinal O’Hara High School say students have been following the requirements and the school is surprised a few institutions are having an issue.

“I mean we’re doing it here. My own children are doing it at their schools so it didn’t really occur to me, but you know, we’re doing it here that’s all we know,” Director of advancement Renee Orr said. “Our students have been great. We really haven’t had many problems. A little every once in a while [we’ll say] put it over your nose but for the most part, they’re really compliant. They want to be in school, The only way they can do that is if they follow the rules.”

At Saint Christopher’s in Tonawanda, students are in school five days a week and have multiple guidelines to follow.

“We’re supposed to have two forms of mitigation at all times, and we have three,” said principal Camille Pontrello. “We have six feet between our desks, we do have desk shields and the children wear masks.”

Over in Niagara County, Niagara Falls Public School District Superintendent Mark Laurree says wearing a mask and social distancing is imperative to keeping students and staff safe.

“I am pleased to report that that has been the least of our problems in the Niagara Falls School District,” he said.

Poloncarz said he’ll be speaking with superintendents from each district in the county to make sure they’re following the mask mandate. He said the county does have the ability to close a school down if they aren’t complying.

Sarah Minkewicz is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.

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