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Moorestown’s board of education addresses COVID concerns

Residents also discuss masks and mental health at meeting.

CHRISTINE HARKINSON/The Sun: Moorestown’s William Allen Middle School was the site of the board of education’s Jan. 18 meeting, a session that touched on masks and mental health.

Moorestown resident Bill Blanche addressed the board of education at its Jan. 18 meeting to express both happiness and unhappiness with the district.

“(I’m) extremely pleased with the education my kids are getting so far,” he said. “(I’m) extremely displeased with my right as a parent to make decisions about my child’s health.”

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Blanche explained that it’s okay to disagree while recognizing commonality.

“If I don’t want my kid to wear a mask, I think that’s my right as a parent,” he noted. “We have stuff in common, right? We just might disagree on whether we think it’s right for our kid to wear a mask or not.”

“But we’re passionate about our children,” Blanche added. “It’s one of the reasons why we’re all here. We just might have different viewpoints and that’s okay.”

Resident Dawn Leusner also made public comments.

“… Any of these policies that we come up with, please consider mental health,” she pleaded. “These kids are struggling outside of school. The masks … if they can be optional at some point, that would be amazing.”

Earlier in the meeting, Board President Maurice Weeks explained that he and his fellow members are working at building a better relationship with the community.

“It’s extremely important to me, as I know it is to the people joining me here on the dais, that the public have the opportunity to gain a better understanding of the operations of this organization,” he said.

Superintendent Michael Volpe gave his monthly report and addressed the board’s desire to continue in person learning. He said that learning will go remote if there is a high, in-school transmission rate or staff shortage. The high school and middle schools would go remote first.

All educators will teach in person at Moorestown Upper, South Valley, George C. Baker and Mary E. Roberts elementary schools, and if need be, Upper Elementary will go remote while the other three elementary schools remain open.

“We’re prioritizing our youngest learners and our most vulnerable learners,” Volpe explained. “To be clear, we are not at such a point and our absences are getting better.”

The superintendent announced the board’s decision to hire a part-time nurse for help with contact tracing and cited the need for more substitute teachers.

“Substitutes, you are truly unsung heroes in all public schools, not just here in Moorestown,” he said.

In new business, board member Jill Fallows Macaluso addressed what ways, if any, students can socialize outdoors more. Volpe explained that he would like to engage in decisions with the school’s principals regarding that.

“That would be great, because I do think that even though we’re turning this corner and I’m excited about that, I do think there will still be some constraints in place,” she said. “And to the extent we can make things more enjoyable for the students, that would be wonderful.”

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