Safer Schools in New Providence NJ
Safer Schools in New Providence NJ
Why this petition matters
Dear Dr. Miceli, Mrs. Zirpoli, Mr. Henry, Ms. Greenwald, and Mrs. Drexinger and the Board of Education.
We, the parents of New Providence, would like to begin by saying we are appreciative of the hard work and time dedicated to opening our schools safely in light of Governor Murphy’s mandate to offer full-time, in person instruction this fall. As we embark on yet again a novel environment for teaching, learning, and living, we understand that decisions are difficult to make in light of constantly changing variables.
We are writing to ask for you to employ additional safety precautions for our schools in addition to the plan that you have already set forth. The conditions under which we are opening schools differs greatly from that of the end of the school year last year and our jobs as parents, teachers, and administrators should always reflect upon the situation at hand and protect our students' health and safety above all.
We want to err on the side of having followed the known safety measures rather than having just saved money or taking the logistically easy path. The security of knowing we kept our students and staff safe to the best of our ability is something that cannot be emphasized enough. The alternative, of not taking sufficiently strong measures and letting children and faculty spread this ultra-contagious variant amongst our community and homes, is infinitely darker. There has been much discussion about mental health and anxiety, and the lack of good safety precautions is honestly one of the greatest sources of anxiety in children, parents and our community.
As parents having no option to choose virtual learning for our children, we hope that you will consider the following:
- A plan for all weather outdoor eating (tents for days with rain) to allow the safest possible option for eating for our students.
- Adherence to distancing recommendations by the CDC - removing tables and grouped desks in favor of rows of desks with students not facing each other.
- Increase the use of masks in all indoor spaces by adjusting or eliminating the weather dependent mask mandates
- Use of air purifying equipment for all classrooms.
We know based on data that indoor dining is a high risk activity and we as a community and school can mitigate some of its risks. The best of the strategies for which we can support the health and safety of our children and the adults in the school is to make outdoor dining not only more readily accessible but also maintainable for as many instances as possible.
One possible way in which we can provide this would be to set up some outdoor tents. Many school districts nationwide have achieved this for the schools and a district as small as ours with community support as widespread as ours would be able to execute this relatively simple yet very effective way to protect our students.
Use of outdoor tents for all weather outdoor eating is a more equitable means of providing safety for all students. Limiting safe lunch measures for only those families who have access to picking up students every day is highly inequitable and the safest available measures should be accessible for all.
Masks & Distancing
The virus doesn't disappear at 75 degrees, and in the absence of testing, screening and more meaningful contact tracing, the temperature exemption for masks does not make sense and introduces a major gap in our safety measures. We know many school districts that are requiring masks at all times except for outdoors. It is also not clear that Murphy's mask mandate allows for this exemption.
With the return of students at pre-pandemic numbers and many configurations that put students facing each other in very close proximity, without dividers in any settings, this is very risky. Many parents are not comfortable sending their kids into schools knowing they will be around unmasked unvaccinated children all day, especially given the lack of AC in many of our classrooms. Losing the ability to have remote learning, coupled with no masks, and warm temperatures these first, most sensitive weeks (which will also see people coming back from summer vacations, Labor Day parties, and the high Jewish holidays), combined with a more transmissible Delta variant, sets us up for peril both in the health and safety of our children and staff, but also with interrupted learning from inevitable quarantines.
Some simple measures can be taken to strengthen our implementation of layered prevention strategies.
Increase the temperature at which masks can be taken off. Increasing the temperature to 85 will insure more days with proper mask conditions in school.
Return to desks facing the same way with as much distance as achievable in a classroom
We know that air purifiers (and particularly UV-C equipped air purifiers) make a meaningful impact. Though not a perfect solution, it add a layer of protection for all. CDC research (https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7027e1.htm confirms this, and basic units costing less than $200 can work for rooms up to 1000sf. This is a minimal and basic measure, and most companies and public spaces adapted to using this, many over a year ago. We now have overwhelming evidence that the SARS-CoV-2 virus is primarily spread through aerosol transmission. The delta variant is even more contagious and practically as contagious as the measles virus which is airborne transmission. Air quality measures have been shown to be a critical part of our armamentarium of protective measures, which include ventilation and air purification, masks, distancing, testing, vaccination, etc.
We have overwhelming support for achievable measures and have an army of families willing to donate their time and money to take this step for the safety of our schools. Many families are volunteering to help raise funds and donate time to install these purifiers in schools. The only thing stopping our efforts is the support of our administrators.
We understand that the above stated measures to implement layered prevention strategies are challenging, but with the arsenal of community support you have, we feel strongly that these actionable plans can be attained.