N.J. coronavirus update: Debate over wearing masks on school property as graduations near

Students walks past applauding friends and family during a graduation ceremony at Millburn High School in Millburn, N.J., Wednesday, July 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Students walks past applauding friends and family during a graduation ceremony at Millburn High School in Millburn, N.J., Wednesday, July 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

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New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has lifted outdoor mask mandates in the state, but the order is still in effect when on public school property, and one school superintendent in Ocean County is asking Murphy to change that.

Dr. Triantafillos Parlapanides, superintendent of the Central Regional School District, wrote Murphy on Monday asking him to lift the order in schools.

Students between the ages of 5 and 17 make up less than 10% of cases, he wrote, adding all teachers who wanted to be vaccinated have been and are back in the classroom.

Parlapanides said his district has more than 400 hundred students slated to graduate on June 22 and it would be nice for parents to see their children’s smiling faces, given that the event will be outdoors and spread out.

“I think New Jerseyans are smart enough,” he said. “Everybody has their own situation, whether they should be social distanced or masked. I think we should have that option of choosing to do that.”

The governor’s mask order has already gotten heat from some Ocean County parents this month after a Stafford Township school nurse was suspended for not wearing a face covering to work. A rally supporting the nurse earlier this month drew some 400 supporters.

Parlapanides says he wrote his letter at the request of a parent group that has been pushing for unmasking in schools. He said no teachers have pushed back on his request to the governor.

But the New Jersey Education Association told NJ.com the union has advised against any shortcuts, arguing a vast number of students are still unvaccinated, and only those age 12 and up are eligible for the shots.

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