BRICK – The superintendent and board of education president said they would follow state mandates on wearing masks, but asked the governor to let local districts make the choice instead.
Brick reported no transmission of the virus within schools during the 2020-2021 school year, officials said. The district had managed to open full day, five days a week at the end of the year.
“Brick Schools was ready to start the new school year under the auspices of local control, analyze current data in our district once we re-open, and adjust accordingly with specific decision-making,” Superintendent Thomas Farrell said. He described a “flexible mask plan” that was used in June due to excessive heat, while still keeping students and staff safe.
“At this time, we have every reason to believe Brick Schools can successfully continue our preventative measures for in-person learning that is safe for both students and staff, while supporting effective education and the social-emotional, health, safety, and well-being of all, utilizing a flexible mask plan,” he said.
Gov. Phil Murphy announced the mandate early in August.
The Centers for Disease Control and epidemiologists have shown that wearing masks slows the spread of the virus; the mask is most effective if the person wearing it is sick. Some people can be carriers of the virus without having symptoms, or have the virus even after being vaccinated. Booster shots are now being planned for high-risk people as the vaccinations are starting to prove less effective as time goes on.
As of right now, there is no vaccine for elementary school-aged children.
Board President Stephanie Wohlrab said that the Class of 2022 will have spent 20% of their school experience under executive orders and mandates, and now they are facing more for their senior year.
She noted how the governor took a trip to Italy despite travel recommendations from the CDC, so she asked the same freedom and emotional equity for local families.
“As we approach our 3rd academic year confronting COVID-19 risks, as community members and leaders we must come together and do all we can to return the CHILD in childhood: focus on safety and wellness, effective education, voice of community, and equity,” she said. “Executive Order 251 must be rescinded, allowing the opportunity for healing and community cooperation instead of dissection. To expect society, especially our children, to continue to accept mandates and restrictions indefinitely, based on suggested recommendations, is not only unrealistic, but unjust. When does it end?
“Furthermore, we strongly disagree with your statement that anyone opposed to Executive Order 251 does not care for the safety of children. Brick Township Public Schools administration and staff continue to demonstrate time and again that safety is our number one priority. Starting the new year under the auspices of local control, with proactive protocols in place we are prepared to provide a safe learning environment for students and staff, simultaneously supporting effective education and the social-emotional, health, safety and well-being of all, utilizing an optional mask plan. So, while we disagree on Executive Order 251, we also disagree that those who oppose it do not hold the safety and well-being of students and staff as a top priority,” she said.