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Despite a survey that shows the majority of South Orange-Maplewood preschool parents and teachers feel masks are unnecessary, the school district will continue to mandate that 3-5-year-olds wear masks during school hours. From a letter sent last week to preschool parents:
The District has decided that we will continue to implement “mandatory indoor masking” for all of our PreK sites through the end of the academic school year. We understand that some families may be disappointed by the District’s decision, however, we believe that this is the best decision for the health and wellness of our PreK student body as Essex County’s COVID Activity Level Index (CALI) remains high and many students in this grade level are still not eligible for vaccination.
The district has collaborative agreements with seven private preschools to provide services to eligible children.
In a survey conducted in April, pre-K-12, parents, teachers and students were asked about their masking views. Among the 122 respondents to the preschool survey, 59.8% of parents think preschoolers shouldn’t have to wear masks indoor and 35% think they should. (The rest were “not sure.”) Fifty-six percent of parents wanted a mask-optional policy to start immediately and 29% wanted to wait until vaccinations were available. Among preschool staff, 56% thought masks should be made optional; 32% thought mask-wearing should continue.
(Oddly, when middle and high school students were asked whether masks should be optional for themselves, 35% said “no, masks should still be required” but only 26% of parents and 31% of staff members said felt the same. SOMA students are more conservative about COVID than their parents and teachers!)
According to experts, the majority of SOMA parents and staff are correct, certainly for the preschool set. From a piece published in the Frontiers in Psychology,
A mask obstructing a face limits the ability of people of all ages to infer emotions expressed by facial features, but the difficulties associated with the mask’s use are significantly pronounced in children aged between 3 and 5 years old. These findings are of essential importance, as they suggest that we live in a time that may potentially affect the development of social and emotion reasoning, and young children’s future social abilities should be monitored to assess the true impact of the use of masks.