Thursday, 10 June 2021

NJ Superintendent Goes On Leave After Refusing To Waive School Mask Mandate

 A New Jersey superintendent was placed on administrative leave at his request after he did not waive the state’s mask mandate for schools.

Democratic Governor of New Jersey Phil Murphy recently said that people could remove their masks in schools under certain weather-related conditions.

“As a reminder to all schools officials, our current masking requirements do include exceptions for cases of extreme heat in outdoor settings and for situations indoors or outdoors where wearing a mask would inhibit the individual’s health. School officials are empowered to relax masking among students and staff in their buildings, given extreme weather conditions, and we hope they will make the right calls for their educational communities,” the governor said earlier this week.

In a survey, however, most of the parents in the school district reportedly said they would be in favor of entirely getting rid of the mask mandate, leading to Superintendent John J. Marciante, who will retire later this month after 14 years, being placed on leave at his request.

In a message from assistant superintendent Dr. Nicole Santora to the school community, Santora explained the situation.

“A number of parents came to the Board of Education meeting tonight in an effort to make masks optional for students.  Dr. Marciante stated that he would follow Executive Order 175, which provided stipulations for mask removal in extreme heat,” Santora wrote.

She went on to say, “Upon Dr. Marciante’s recommendation, in an effort to give the community what the majority had voted for on the survey, the Board of Education placed Dr. Marciante on administrative leave,” adding that the board then passed the motion “to revise the district mask policy to make masks optional for all students AT PARENTS[’] DISCRETION.”

“Masks are optional for staff members with proof of vaccination,” she added. “Unvaccinated staff members will still be required to wear masks inside school buildings.”

Last week, Marciante told NJ Advance Media that only three out of eight buildings where students take classes have full air-conditioning.

“Unfortunately, the community has twice voted down referendums to air-condition schools. We deal with what we have to deal with,” Marciante said at the time.

The issue of mask-wearing in schools has been a contentious subject for months. Last month, a collection of Republican congressmen wrote a letter to Democratic Governor of Virginia Ralph Northam, asking him to get rid of the school mask mandate.

“In the letter, Republicans cited studies that show transmission via children is extremely rare. One study out of Germany concluded that staff-to-staff transmission is the most common and is far more common than student-to-staff, staff-to-student, or student-to-student transmission.”

“Research has consistently shown that children are at low risk for contracting COVID-19, or having severe cases if they do become infected with the virus,” the letter read. “Additionally, schools have not been considered a significant contributor to community transmission.”

In New York, Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo set a vaccination goal for lifting COVID-19 restrictions earlier this week, but said that the indoor mask mandate for schools would remain in place while allowing children to take off their masks while outdoors.

“The numbers show that the risk of transmission by children is extremely low, especially in this state, which has an extremely low positivity rate. We spoke with the CDC, and since they’re not going to change their guidance for several weeks in New York State, we’re going to modify the CDC guidance and allow schools to choose no mask outside for children,” Cuomo said Monday. “We’ll leave that up to the local school district and we spoke to the CDC, which has no objection.”

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