JACKSON – Masks in the classroom and the school district’s current quarantine instruction plan were among the subjects discussed by parents who came to the most recent Board of Education meeting.
This was not the first time that parents came out in opposition to Governor Phil Murphy’s executive order mandating masks for staff and students in school buildings. Few members of the public wore them at the meetings held in the Fine Arts Center auditorium at Jackson Memorial High School.
Joseph Mazzella said “the government – be it federal or local – are playing politics with our children in areas of their health with these unconstitutional mask mandates. If we go by the catch phrase ‘follow the science,’ it goes against everything science says is safe and effective.”
“Some teachers are taking it upon themselves to push their own agendas upon our kids, play the role of parent, overstepping their authority, planting seeds in the minds of our young and impressionable children, going beyond curriculum and venturing into areas that only we as parents should have influence,” he added.
Mazella told the Board, “we are watching you. We are speaking with our children every day and we will know ever more what you as educators and Board members are feeding our children in class.” His closing remark of “consider yourself on notice. We are watching you” drew applause from the audience.
Parent Christine McGinley told the board about “the atrocious quarantine learning plan. Well Murphy’s law hit my family the first night of school. My daughter came home not feeling well and I thought it might have to do with her sleeping 10 hours during the summer and now she was sleeping six hours. She went to bed didn’t eat and in the middle of the night spiked a fever.”
The Cook Road resident said on the second day of school she kept both her children home and brought her daughter for testing. Two tests came back positive for COVID-19. “From day two this school year my family has been living this egregious quarantine plan. Thankfully, my daughter recovered well and quickly.”
The parent said her daughter, a middle school student, spent each day of her quarantine “trying to teach herself the assigned work. During the full week (besides) the holiday she received just two hours of math instruction and one hour of literacy instruction and one hour of social studies. Only four hours of instruction because she only had four days of school.”
“Tonight, my daughter who is involved in soccer asked to stay home and skip soccer because she is so stressed about all the work that she is trying to catch up on. She is a super bright and capable girl but she is stressed because she wasn’t taught. She was only given four hours of instruction”
She moved on to discuss her special needs son who is dyslexic. Because he was a close contact family member, he has a 24-day quarantine. She said he was perfectly healthy. “He had COVID back in the spring. It is very unlikely that he is going to get COVID.” She said the 60 minutes he is getting with his special education teacher falls short of what he needs and usually receives.
“We have the means, we have the technology and it proved really successful back when my daughter had the 24 days which equals three whole weeks out of school. When my daughter was out of school for close contact she kept up with every single subject. She signed on, saw her teachers teaching. She could engage. She learned during her quarantine period,” McGinley said.
“I’ve learned that Jackson has decided to use the home instruction model. We have perfectly healthy children not being educated. Why are you not teaching them? I was told by the state that it is the board here that approved this plan” she added.
McGinley said, “It is not specified in (Governor) Murphy’s order that they can only get one hour or two hours. You are basing this model on a home instruction plan that was due to children being ill. My daughter recovered from COVID in three days.”
She said she was pleased that Superintendent Nicole Pormilli was considering revising this plan. “I am here to demand that you do it.”
“We are committed to accessing things and if things aren’t working, we will fix them and that is what we are looking at right now,” Pormilli said.