While the school mask mandate in New York remains intact, some parents are concerned masks are affecting their children’s physical and mental well-being and want masks to be optional.

Several parents from the Northern Adirondack School District and Malone Central School District voiced their concerns about their children having to wear masks. Amanda Coryea, a mother of six, has children in the Northern Adirondack School District. Her youngest child is five-years old.

“Half of his life has been spent in a mask,” says Coryea. “In kindergarten you learn how to interact, you learn how to express yourself with your peers, and by masking your children you are unable to see your friend smiling.” Coryea says that her son does not even know what his friends look like without a mask.

“We have seen people he goes to school with and until the child talks, he doesn’t know who it is, because the only things he knows right now is voices and hair color.”

Chris LeClerc who has three kids in the Malone Central School District says they face anxiety about leaving their masks at home. “If I am walking out of the house and bringing them to school, it’s “Dad I forgot my mask, I am going to get in so much trouble” that is a problem to me. My kids have to be worried about going to school because they forgot a mask, that is a severe problem.”

Another parent, Karen LeClair says the mask is preventing her children from reading emotions. “The smiling or the sad, how do our kids understand and see that now in school? The teachers can’t even smile, they cant even smile at their friends.”

A speech language pathologist and autism consultant with Vermont Speech and Language Pathology says when children are young and in kindergarten, they rely on non-verbal body cues. “From the whole body but most importantly from the face to figure out what other people are thinking and feeling and to get the whole message.”

Instead, with the mask mandate, she says it’s important for children to express their emotions with words. “What we are teaching children first is feel and reveal, so you might start by saying “It’s Laura, I am so happy to see you today, I am smiling” and that gives students or the child that I am interacting with the message that I am ready to connect.”

Either way, all three parents say they think the decision should be theirs to make. The Superintendent for the Northern Adirondack Central School District says they continue to follow the directives of the New York State Education Department and the New York State Department of Health in regards to the wearing of masks while indoors at school or on school buses.