BERKELEY – Central Regional School District officials penned a letter to Gov. Phil Murphy in opposition of the requirement that all students, staff, and visitors to schools wear masks in September.
The letter was written by Board President Louis Tuminaro and Superintendent Triantafillos Parlapanides on behalf of the Board of Education, “our many stakeholders, and most importantly the students.”
The district’s Pandemic Response Team had just made a decision to make the 2021-2022 school year mask-optional when the governor’s executive order came out, they said.
“Your blanket orders do not reflect what is in the best interest of the students and staff of the Central Regional School District and additionally, infringes on home rule,” they said.
Murphy’s executive order makes reference to the recommendation by the Centers for Disease Control that all staff, students and visitors wear masks regardless of vaccination status. This is just a recommendation, the letter said, not a requirement by the CDC.
The state is allowing exemptions to the masks, such as “When wearing a face mask creates an unsafe condition in which to operate equipment or execute a task.”
Parents have complained to local officials that masks are negatively impacting their children’s “psychological and emotional well-being, as well as making it harder for them to learn and concentrate.” The parents are also concerned about children wearing masks for six hours a day.
Therefore, Central officials were calling for the mask order to be rescinded. They closed by saying “We, as local community members, understand the needs of our district, Trenton does not.”
The district had sent a similar letter in spring of this year.
Central Regional has students from Berkeley, Seaside Heights, Seaside Park, Island Heights and Ocean Gate. It is a 7th-12th grade school, meaning that the majority of its student body is now eligible for the vaccine which has been offered to children as young as 12.
According to figures from the Ocean County Health Department, there have been fewer than 10 new cases per day for most days in Berkeley since July 1. This only counts the cases that were reported to the county, and this information isn’t divided into age groups.
Medical experts, including the OCHD, have been advocating the use of masks and social distancing to slow the spread of the coronavirus, in partnership with enhanced cleaning protocols. Studies have shown that mask usage can prevent infection, particularly if the person who is wearing the mask is COVID-positive. People can be vaccinated and not showing symptoms and still be carriers of the virus, research has found.