ATL. HIGHLANDS – Ciaran Kennedy Harbor View Drive, read a letter to the Board of Education at its meeting Tuesday night , citing reasons, facts and statistics with a request that the board leave the decision of whether children should wear masks to school in September up to parents.
Kennedy’s letter was signed by 11 other parents from several different streets in the borough. The letter identified numerous sources from which he had secured his information, including entries on the school’s Facebook page, Jersey State Health Assessment Data, Leading Causes of Death among New Jersey Residents and a letter from former school superintendent Dr. Susan Compton.
“None of us wants to see national level politics negatively impact the lives of our children in our small town community, “ the letter said. “After a tough and disruptive last two school years for all of our children, we implore the board and the administration to make decisions in the best interests of getting our children back to normality, aligned with common sense. We respect any individual's choice to wear a mask but believe any decision to do so should be a choice for the family, not a mandate by the administration and board. Thank you for considering these points.”
The letter was signed by himself and his wife, Zara, Ann and Michael Scholler, Daniel and Bridget Duffy, Colleen and William Seuffert, Lucas and Erin Charleston, Jennifer Vossen and Darren Srikumpol and noted the information contained in the letter was drawn from the most recent official government organization sources.
Tri-School Superintendent Dr. Tara Beams and the Boar thanked Kennedy for the letter, confirmed they had a copy of it and noted the board has not yet made a decision on what actions will be taken about mask wearing for the next school year.
As concerned parents of Atlantic Highlands Elementary School children we’d like to respectfully ask that the administration and board carefully consider any future policies regarding mandating mask wearing for our children in conjunction with the following facts:
100% of Atlantic Highlands residents over 65 have received one vaccination dose for protection against COVID-19, 93% complete courses. Given a maximum recommendation between doses of 28 days, by the time school starts, 100% of these residents will likely be vaccinated. Any suggestion that we should be masking children to protect the vulnerable loses its relevance in our community.
One question, initially marked as mandatory, on the recent survey that was sent to parents skewed possible answers with a suggestion that either accepting mitigation strategies or not sending children were the only potential options. We think you have to consider that any statistics gathered from this question are potentially unreliable and do not accurately represent the opinions of our community as a whole.
AHES did not follow New Jersey state level guidance regarding excessive heat, nor CDC guidance regarding outdoor masking while singing, so by example there is leeway to adjust the rules within our community when it is convenient and safe to do so. School districts are able to determine masking policies at the local level.
Many of our children are attending recreation and educational camps this summer where they are permitted to gather within close distances with other unvaccinated campers from our community who are not wearing face masks. Given that unmasked close indoor contact is happening prior to the start of the school year, including in the Atlantic Highlands Elementary School building - implementing any mandatory mask rules seems counterproductive.
Provisional data from New Jersey Department of Health indicates that there were no deaths between the ages of 3-12 in 2020 or 2021 due to COVID-19.
Statistically there is more chance of younger people in our region dying of unintentional injuries, homicide, suicide, cancer and heart disease.
It would be more impactful to the youth of our community for our school to consider additional policies and programs related to safety, mental health and healthy eating than researching, creating policies related to and enforcing mandatory mask wearing.
None of us wants to see national level politics negatively impact the lives of our children in our small town community. After a tough and disruptive last two school years for all of our children, we implore the board and the administration to make decisions in the best interests of getting our children back to normality, aligned with common sense. We respect any individual's choice to wear a mask but believe any decision to do so should be a choice for the family, not a mandate by the administration and board.
Thank you for considering these points.
Concerned parents of Atlantic Highlands Elementary School children