Wall schools plea to NJ: no masks in September

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Wall Township Board of Education FILE PHOTO

WALL TOWNSHIP — The Wall Township Board of Education sent Gov. Phil Murphy a letter requesting that he lift his mandate of masks in the state’s schools when students return in the fall and return school control to the local level.

The letter, written by board President Ralph Addonizio, addressed many of the concerns that parents of students had brought up at the previous board meetings about their children wearing masks for the duration of the school day. The letter asks the governor to assure New Jersey residents that masks will not be necessary, along with other safety measures, come September.

The board has explained to parents that it has no control over the matter, as the district is held to these rules by the state. 

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Other boards of education, including in Belmar, have also backed a motion to send a letter to the governor with their concerns over the state’s student mask policy. [Story, page 5]

The federal Centers for Disease Control still recommends wearing masks in all classroom and non-classroom settings, including hallways, school offices, restrooms and more, as of Wednesday.

While it seems clear that students will continue wearing masks through the end of this school year, even as bars and restaurants have dropped their mask mandates, the board has asked the governor to lift the mandate for the 2021-2022 school year.

In the letter, Mr. Addonizio outlines the lengths the district went over the past year in order to try to quickly get students back in school for in-person learning. That included hybrid learning schedules to begin the 2020-2021 school year for the intermediate and high school and installation of plexiglass shields and other safety measures.

The changes have negatively impacted students’ learning experience, he said.

“These measures have altered the learning environment to be more restrictive, therefore limiting the effectiveness of in-person instruction,” Mr. Addonizio wrote. “In order for the district to continue its mission to provide high quality education to its students, local and state governments need to start rolling these measures back in the fall. 

“The only way to do that will be to return control of these measures back to the local health departments and school districts, to control flare-ups in the absence of a health emergency on the state level.”

Mr. Addonizio said that the board of education believes that the district would be best at determining its own rules and regulations next year in regard to health and safety. He asked the state to put parents’ concerns “at ease,” and announce now that restrictions will not be in effect in the fall.

“We have now arrived at the light at the end of the tunnel that we have all worked so hard to achieve. We are the boots on the ground and know our district better than anyone. Our district has and will continue to make sure everyone is safe. We ask that you put the residents of New Jersey at ease and announce that, pending substantial verifiable evidence, the emergency measures in Executive Order 175 will not be in effect come September 2021.”

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