Schools To Support Quarantined Students

  BRICK – Mask wearing by students has become a divisive issue, but the school district has no choice due to Governor Phil Murphy’s Executive Order 251, which requires the face coverings in school buildings by students, staff and visitors.

  No municipality, county or agency can enact any contrary policy or regulation which could conflict or impede this order.

  The only exception to the mask mandate is when students are outdoors, they have health or medical issues, disabilities, while eating or drinking, during physical activity and when there are excessive heat conditions.

  “We’re kind of back in pandemic mode somewhat,” said Superintendent of Schools Thomas Farrell during a recent Board of Education meeting.

   “Currently…our region is designated high-risk by the matrix that we have to comply with and go by from the New Jersey Department of Ed and the New Jersey State Department of Health.”

  “The pandemic, and its ever-changing guidance and ongoing implementation of new protocols, et cetera have taken much time from the administration,” Dr. Farrell said.

  He recently “kind of joked” during a county superintendent’s meeting that he can’t remember the last time they spoke about teaching and learning.

  The district has invoked some of the mask-wearing exceptions, for example, during the first two weeks of school when there was excessive heat. Masks were recommended but optional, the superintendent said.

Parents discussed COVID issues during the recent Board of Education meeting. (Screenshot by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

  Students are afforded multiple mask breaks throughout the day within the parameters that reduce close contact exposure, he said.

  Guidance provided by the New Jersey Department of Education says exposed students wearing masks or who are vaccinated are no longer considered close contact and will not have to quarantine, Dr. Farrell said.

  “When the governor…came back out with some of these mandates, unfortunately he left the day-to-day operation and the policing of it, up to educators,” Dr. Farrell said.

  He said the Board members and the school administration are required to uphold the constitution and all the laws in the state of New Jersey and cannot go against an executive order or the law.

  During public comment, parent Amy Dowd Kish said six days after the school year began, she was told that her son was potentially exposed to COVID in the classroom.

  “He’s still home – 14 days, and now we’re not allowed to have virtual [learning],” she said. “This is ridiculous.” (Governor Murphy said there would be no virtual learning during this school year).

  Kish has since found out that her son is entitled to one hour of virtual instruction a day: a half hour in the morning and a half hour after school hours, which she said is not a good learning environment.

  “Could we put a camera on [the teacher]…and let him listen in and be part of that instruction?” she asked. “To me, that’s not virtual, that’s observation.”

  Director of Planning, Research and Evaluation Susan McNamara said that many parents have voiced the same suggestion.

  “If we could just see the instruction taking place, if they could see the PowerPoints or videos that are being shown, or hear the teacher’s instruction as they’re writing on the board, it would be helpful,” she said.

  The district is now providing a window into the classroom for students who are quarantined so they would be able to see the instruction taking place, McNamara said.

  The program is evolving, regarding support from the child’s teacher and their grade level, she added.

  “We heard you loud and clear, so we’re working on it, “McNamara said.

  The next Board of Education meeting will be on Tuesday, October 26 at 7 p.m. at the Professional Development Center.