A Monmouth County school district is planning to defy Gov. Phil Murphy's mask order.

At a special meeting of the Wall Township School Board last night, Superintendent Tracy Handerhan confirmed the district would make masking up voluntary for the new school year.

During the meeting, several parents spoke out against the mask mandate. Handerhan mentioned at the end of the public comment period it was great to see "smiling faces" of students this summer.

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Last night's meeting came after school board president Ralph Addonizio sent a letter to Murphy saying his mask edict does not reflect the best interest of Wall Township Public Schools. Addonizio says the order also infringes on "home rule," or a town's right to make decisions in it's own best interest free from interference from the state.

"We as a board have had some parents tell us how masks are negatively affecting their children’s psychological and emotional well-being, as well making it harder to learn and concentrate," Addonizio wrote to Murphy. "Parents have expressed concerns over masking students for six hours per day.”

It is not clear what repercussions the district could face for defying Murphy's order, but Handerhan acknowledged the district is seeking legal advice. "We're going to have meet with our attorney's on this," she told last night's meeting, because this is uncharted territory.

Handerhahn also said had been in contact with other superintendents who are also struggling with the mask issue. "This is not only a Wall issue," she said.

Addonozio told NJ.com he hopes the governor will ultimately rescind his mask order, but even if he did, the district would make decisions based on what is best for Wall. That could include, he said, consider school-specific mask mandates if there were a spike in COVID cases in a school or specific region of the district.

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