WAYNE, NJ — In letters sent to staff and parents, Wayne Schools Superintendent, Dr. Mark Toback shared the district’s new masking policy that started June 10th and remains in effect for the “remainder of the year.”

On Monday, Gov. Phil Murphy made a statement regarding masking requirements in schools during “extreme weather 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,” said the Governor.

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“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,” Murphy added.

In his letter to staff, Dr. Toback called the situation after Murphy’s announcement, “very difficult for all educators.” He said that the Governor did not “specify a definition of extreme heat,” and that “extreme heat and any related health risks are personal and situational concerns.” His letters, in its entirety are below.

The district, weighing health concerns with or without masks, decided to let parents choose.

“Effective tomorrow, June 10th, and through the remainder of the school year, students and staff are permitted to remove their masks indoors and outdoors in extreme heat,” he wrote in his letter to staff. “We will continue to implement social distancing and desk Shields or possible. Frequent hand washing and all other COVID-19 mitigation measures to support the health and safety of everyone will be strongly encouraged.”

Parents’ opinions fall on both sides and they shared them publicly on Facebook.

“If they can take their mask off for a mask break in the classroom as per the email we received last night,” said Kristin Shaffer Roseman, “they can certainly sit at their desks without their masks on while learning too. Wear them when moving about the building, but at their desk, stationary, they should be allowed to have them off. And they certainly shouldn't be wearing them outside in the fresh air / extreme heat!”

“I'm still going to send my boys to school in masks,” said Marissa Cabani Sikder. “They're too young for the vaccine and there are still teachers who can't get the vaccine. I've told them to take a mask break when they need one and to keep washing their hands just as they have been.”

Luisa Frattaroli Wiltshire wrote: “Our kids are being tortured! Their treatment is inhumane! State prisoners have AC and are treated better than the children. Shame on you Murphy and the leaders of NJ that don’t have the guts to prioritize KIDS health and safety!”

Toback admitted the inconsistencies of air conditioning in the school district in his letter to staff.

“Throughout our 15 schools in the district, the temperature varies with some schools air conditioned and other schools that have air conditioning in some classrooms but not others,” the Superintendent wrote in his letter to staff.

This subject is likelty to come up in Thursday night's Wayne school board meeting, scheduled at 7:30 p.m. To log on to this meeting, click here.

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Letters from Dr. Toback:

Dear Staff:

As you know, Governor Murphy unexpectedly created a very difficult situation for all educators on Monday with his press conference where he spoke about easing masking requirements based on the weather and health concerns.

Like all NJ school systems, we have been forced to consider a number of important issues pertaining to the health and safety of our students and staff. As a result, we have determined we can make some changes to make the situation more manageable.

Effective tomorrow, June 10th, and through the remainder of the school year, students and staff are permitted to remove their masks indoors and outdoors in extreme heat. We will continue to implement social distancing and desk shields when possible. Frequent hand washing and all other COVID-19 mitigation measures to support the health and safety of everyone will be strongly encouraged.

Please consider the information below when providing follow up communication with your school community:

  • The governor's announcement does not specify a definition of extreme heat.
  • Extreme heat and any related health risks are personal and situational concerns.
  • Throughout our 15 schools in the district, the temperature varies with some schools air conditioned and other schools that have air conditioning in some classrooms but not others.
  • We do not necessarily know who has or has not been vaccinated.
  • Unvaccinated individuals are strongly encouraged to continue wearing masks while participating in activities that include sustained contact with others, or when in a crowded setting.
  • Staff and students will be required to wear a mask when in the hallways or moving about the building.
  • Encourage parents with specific requests to reach out.

In sum, because of the extreme heat generally endured and forecast during June, individuals may elect not to wear masks for the remainder of the year. Parents, staff and students are to exercise reasonable discretion in consideration of personal and public health. If any staff members feel the need for additional PPE, including N 95 masks or face Shields, please contact your building principal.

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Dear Parents and Guardians:

On Monday, Governor Murphy unexpectedly made an announcement about easing masking requirements in public schools during periods of extreme heat. This was a major departure from any other communication he made about the need for masking. Since Monday afternoon, we have worked to consider health and safety issues for all students and staff and with the help of our Wayne Department of Health, we were able to ease some masking requirements and offer far more flexibility.

Looking ahead for the remainder of the school year, the forecast is not kind and we expect a number of days where we will see extreme heat. With no definition for extreme heat and no other guidance from Governor Murphy, and considering personal feelings students, parents, and staff may have about heat, masks, and health risks, we would like to implement more changes.

Effective tomorrow, June 10th, and through the remainder of the school year, students and staff are permitted to remove their masks indoors and outdoors in extreme heat. We will continue to implement social distancing and desk shields where possible. Frequent hand washing and all other COVID-19 mitigation measures to support the health and safety of everyone will be strongly encouraged. Parents with specific requests should reach out to their teacher, building principal or school nurse. Additional PPE will be made available upon request.