District addresses COVID-19 concerns for upcoming school year


Olivia Moreno

The Board of Education held an in-person meeting in Pascack Hills on Monday. During this meeting, the community discussed their concerns regarding the COVID-19 restrictions for the upcoming school year, as well as the BOE discussing the search and process of finding a new superintendent.

During the Comments from the Public sections of the in-person Board of Education meeting at Pascack Hills on Monday, August 30, community members discussed policies such as COVID-19 restrictions on masks and vaccinations, as well as the ongoing search for a new superintendent.

After concerns were raised from the public about students being required to wear masks in school, the BOE explained that Governor Phil Murphy’s announcement on mask protocol in New Jersey schools says that all students and faculty are required to wear masks inside the school building.

According to the NJDOH Exclusion Criteria, vaccinated students are not required to quarantine in the event that they are in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19; however, unvaccinated students in New Jersey are required to quarantine for up to 14 days depending on their community’s transmission levels. 

After a question was raised from the public about the possibility of a teacher needing to quarantine, the BOE said that the students would come in-person to class as the teacher taught virtually, whilst an adult was in the classroom to supervise.

BOE President Tammy Molinelli suggested creating “small workgroups to explore everything that goes into the [superintendent search] timeline. 

Business Administrator/Board Secretary Yas Usami brought up the process of finding a new superintendent. 

“We developed the request proposal and then [Interim Superintendent Daniel Fishbein] had identified some search firms that he was aware of and I was aware of,” Usami said. “Two are national search firms and four were local firms. Tomorrow at four o’clock is the deadline [for superintendent applications]. Once we get that [the BOE] wants to set up interviews with them and then decide who you would like to select as a search firm.”

Molinelli said that the new superintendent search firm proposals will be put into packets for each board member to review, and she also proposed the idea of having a few board members be on a small committee to figure out the next steps in interviewing the candidates.

During the Comments from the Public section of the meeting, the topics of masks and vaccinations sparked a lot of discussions.

I do not want my child to be segregated from other students who are vaccinated, have her stand out like a sore thumb, have to be quarantined, and, looked down upon, and I certainly don’t want any coercion coming to my child, telling her that she needs to get vaccinated. ”

— Amanda Mendez from River Vale

My daughter, who graduated last year, wouldn’t want to be in a school with people without masks, she would feel at risk. And that’s the other side of it. So I agree and I respect what you’re saying, but when I look at this, I also look at my particular daughter and I look hard. ”

— BOE Vice President Joseph Blundo

The reason why I’m here tonight [is that] my son is about to start his freshman year of high school, and instead of being nervous about a new school, new year, girls, the normal things that freshmen should be afraid of, he’s nervous about having to wear a mask, eight hours a day, every day, five days a week. My concern is for the well-being of the children. I’m wondering when it became the children’s responsibility to be the saviors of all the people that can’t save themselves in this world.”

— Sheila Mita from Montvale

To compare requiring students to share their vaccination status with requiring Jews to wear stars on their clothes during the Holocaust is completely out of pocket. One is to protect the medical safety of the students and the other was a result of a dictatorship under Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. The subjectees were then sent to concentration camps to die. You can have your opinions about whether we should wear masks or get the vaccine and how the district should handle it, but to compare that to the Holocaust, which many of those people in this room applauded at is insulting, degrading, and frankly makes me feel incredibly unwelcome by my community. ”

— Riley Solomon from Montvale