WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. (WIVB) — Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin, who’s running for governor, connected with the public on many levels at the Williamsville Village Meeting Hall Thursday morning, even on topics close to home.

“We can’t wait till January to get rid of a statewide mask mandate in schools. We can’t wait till November’s election to get rid of this, this is something that has to happen right now,” said Zeldin.

More than 50 people from across the region attended the event.

“Never in my life would I have thought that our parents, our educators, our legislators, or anyone would want to partially suffocate children with a useless mask,” said activist Frank W Kolbmann.

Among those in attendance was a mom from East Aurora. She decided to home school her son because of the school mask mandate. 

“I pulled my son out of school. He’s in fourth grade now learning at home and excelling at home,” said Dawn from East Aurora. “We felt that the face mask was impacting his emotional well-being. He wanted to be hidden all the time. He was wearing a hood over himself everywhere that he went.”

Even a few teachers voiced their concerns.

“As an educator, it’s very detrimental to students,” said Jina Gentry of Amherst. “My background is in literacy. In order for a child to be able to read they have to be able to produce the sounds, but they have to be able to see what sounds to produce, the facial expressions, the lips, where it is on your throat, everything.”

Governor Kathy Hochul rescinded the indoor state mask mandate for businesses earlier this month. As of right now, New York State has made masking optional for local and county governments.

Masks are required, however, in hospitals, nursing homes and on public transportation

The state plans to revisit the issue of school masking in early March.

Angelica Morrison is an award-winning reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.