BOE Sends Letter Asking Governor to Rescind Mask Mandate
The Manchester Township Board of Education voted on August 18, 2021 to send a letter to Governor Murphy asking him to rescind Executive Order 251, which mandates mask wearing in all NJ schools. The letter is below.
Dear Governor Murphy,
The Manchester Township Board of Education voted on August 18, 2021 to write a letter on behalf of our parents and students to respectfully ask that you rescind Executive Order 251 in time for the start of the 2021-22 school year and allow each school district to make a determination on whether students, staff, and visitors should be required to wear masks at school. The Board of Education understands that Executive Order 251 has the force and effect of law, and our district will abide by the current mandate as required if not rescinded.
The Manchester Township Board of Education fully understands the need for students and staff to have a safe and healthy environment for learning. We take this responsibility seriously and have collaborated with stakeholders in the district to develop a safe reopening plan suitable for our community. We will continue to implement many of the safeguards that have been in place since the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year to maintain that safe environment.
However, many of our students and staff have experienced difficulties with mask wearing including loss of meaningful interactions between staff and students which had a negative effect on students particularly in the elementary schools. Parents have also complained about health issues related to their child wearing a mask for extended periods of time. Last year, for a brief time when the mask mandate was relaxed due to excessive heat, there was a positive effect on our students, staff and parents while having no significant change or increased transmission of COVID-19. We are confident that the safety protocols that remained in place and the rising number of vaccinated individuals in the community allowed for transmission to continue to diminish, even after the mask mandate was relaxed. Our district worked cooperatively with the Ocean County Board of Health to provide a community site to offer the vaccine for our staff and the response was a significant increase in staff vaccinations.
The Manchester Board of Education fully understands the responsibility you have as a governor and our district also has for maintaining a safe environment for everyone. Although outbreaks in schools can occur, multiple studies have shown that transmission within school settings is typically lower than – or at least similar to – levels of community transmission, when prevention strategies are in place in schools. We will continue to monitor our district and community health issues and work with our county board of health and would not hesitate to take additional health measures to respond to any negative situation.
As a result of Executive Order 251, our local authority has been diminished and limits our ability to do what is right and necessary for our community. Therefore, we urge you to rescind Executive Order 251 and resume a policy that allows the local communities to determine what is appropriate and for them.
Thank you, Governor Murphy, for your consideration of this request, and for your leadership throughout these trying times.
James K. Pate, School Board President