The issue of masking up in school continues to be a deeply divisive one as students return to classrooms for full-time learning this week.

To mask or not to mask has sparked a bitter fight between some members of the Barnegat Board of Education and the head of the local teacher's union.

After four members of the Barnegat BOE showed up to an August meeting without a mask, William Junker, President of the the Barnegat Education Association, filed separate complaints with the local police and notified the New Jersey Attorney General's Office.

Junker told he believed the members, led by BOE Vice President Richard Quelch, were making a "political statement," and were making it harder to enforce Gov. Phil Murphy's executive order that all students and staff wear a mask inside school buildings.

Quelch claimed he was entitled to go maskless since the board meeting was not being held during school hours, and was showing solidarity for parents and others who object to the mask mandate.

However, the BOE attorney claims Gov. Murphy's Executive Order 253 requires a mask be worn "whenever you're in a school building, not just when school is in session.”

A number of school boards have been pushing back on the sweeping mask mandate, believing it should be a local issue and not one decided by the governor.

Murphy has issued a stern warning to any district that would seek to defy his mask mandate, saying it is "not a polite suggestion."

Some school districts have been taking advantage of an exemption in the mask mandate for "extreme heat." Districts began notifying parents that masking would be optional this week for classrooms or other areas of school buildings that do not have air conditioning. However, that exemption should be short-lived as we transition into cooler weather.

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