Parents seek plan for phasing out masks in New Jersey schools
As some of the COVID-19 data improves in New Jersey, the issue of masks in schools is once again coming to a head.
Some parents are hopeful that Gov. Phil Murphy will soon end his school mask mandate and they want to be sure that their local school boards are ready to do the same.
Landon Moloney, 7, suffers from hearing loss in both ears and uses hearing aids. He loves being in school with his fellow first graders. But he says that sometimes the masks hold him back.
“Because it’s harder for me to talk to my friends and hear them when they are telling me something,” he says.
His dad worries that the masks will impact Landon’s long-term development.
“We may not know for years the negative effect this is having on him,” says Tom Moloney.
And he is not alone. Other parents also would like to see the school mask mandate come to an end.
Parents gathered at the River Vale Board of Education Meeting on Tuesday to put increasing pressure on members of the board to be ready if Murphy drops the executive order.
"I'd like to know that the River Vale Board of Education will follow suit and lift mask requirements for our children,” one parent said at the meeting.
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The governor says that higher vaccination rates could mean ending the mask mandate. Close to 25% of children ages 5 to 11 are fully vaccinated. For children ages 12 to 15, about 55% are fully vaccinated.
But Murphy won’t say exactly what it will take to end the mandate.
“There’s no one number in terms of masking. But I want to get that lifted,” Murphy said.
Parents say that this is the problem – that there is no specific goal.
“If we knew where we needed to get to, I think we all would be able to drive towards that,” says Tom Moloney.
While this pandemic has largely spared children, the state Health Department remains concerned.
"In a typical flu season since we been keeping track, we see about two to three children die of the flu. We’re seeing roughly three times that,” says state medical director Dr. Edward Lifshitz.
Expert says schools need to keep several restrictions in place for layered protection.
"I have heard that message and from what I've seen in the schools it's not effective at all because over the past two months half of our school has been out with COVID,” a parent tells News 12.
Some of the parents do admit that there are still plenty of other parents who want the masks to remain.
Murphy extended the public health emergency in the state. It is set to expire in a few weeks.