WESTFIELD, NJ – Many frustrated parents and community members have spoken out in favor of implementing a “mask choice” policy at Westfield schools as the state mandate will be lifted on March 7 , at Tuesday night’s school board meeting.
Members of the public even ordered pizza during the meeting, testing the mask mandate in schools which is still in place.
Superintendent Dr. Raymond Gonazález sent an email to the school community on Tuesday announcing that the school district is waiting to make a firm decision on a “mask optional” policy as it continues to monitor the COVID situation in schools. schools.
This announcement follows Governor Phil Murphy’s decision to lift the state’s mask mandate for public schools starting March 7. Murphy leaves it up to each district to decide what their mask policies will be.
Amid members of the public expressing concerns about mask requirements, a pizza delivery arrived and the council had to remind people that masks must be worn inside the school building.
“I see 10 pizzas just arrived,” said school board chairman Brendan Galligan. “Keep on your masks. It’s not an option. If you want to eat pizza, you have to go out.
Another board member also spoke:
“It’s a board meeting, it’s not a party, it’s not a free-for-all,” she said. “We happen to be in a cafeteria, that doesn’t mean we’re partying… Let’s put away the pizzas, put our masks back on, that’s the mandate, that’s all.”
Prior to this commotion, many parents and community members took to the podium to advocate for a mask-optional policy.
The first comment came from Ella Russo, a fifth-grade student at Franklin Elementary School, who said she was struggling in school due to the current mask requirement.
“I can barely hear my teacher speak, I can’t read her facial expressions, in fact I barely know what she looks like,” Russo said. “I’m falling behind and so scared to go to college next year.”
“Your decision tonight will impact me for years to come because if you make the wrong choice, I won’t have the same chance to learn as much as kids in other cities and states,” he said. she declared.
Many other Union County schools have moved to make masks optional starting March 7, including Summit, Cranford, Scotch Plains-Fanwood and Clark.
Another member of the public, Kimberly of Standish Avenue, called out some school board members for not wearing masks in public themselves.
“Isn’t it wrong to drop your kids off at school for lunch sitting six feet apart and wearing a mask all day while you go about your day most of the time without a mask on? ” she says. “We’ve seen you all around town. We’ve seen you unmasked at Starbucks, we’ve seen you unmasked with your families for dinner, we’ve seen you unmasked at Addam’s Tavern. Yet you continue to agree with our des children wearing masks at school for no reason.”
She also mentioned a Facebook group that was created where more than 360 Westfield residents showed their support for a mask choice policy.
Laurie McCormack of Tyce Place, who graduated from Westfield High School and has three young children in the school system, urged the district to implement the mask-optional policy “as soon as possible.”
“I can no longer watch my own children, aged three, six and eight, who are masked for more waking hours during the week than they are not,” McCormack said. “Let’s call it that; it’s child abuse.”
Later in the meeting, a police officer escorted a man – according to Tapinto – after he got into a verbal argument with another member of the public. The chairman of the council then decided to take a break and was seen speaking with the superintendent and council counsel in private.
When the meeting resumed, a member of the audience exceeded his three minutes to speak and was approached by a police officer. The Chairman of the Board then quickly adjourned the meeting.
González said earlier in the meeting that in the coming days, the New Jersey Department of Health will provide additional guidance to schools to determine the impact, if any, on social distancing, contact tracing and other mitigating factors. He said this information will help inform the district of any possible policy changes.
The full Board meeting can be viewed on YouTube.
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This article originally appeared on the Westfield Patch