Even with the announcement on Monday that Governor Phil Murphy will be lifting the school mask mandate come March, many welcome the news but question the timeline being used to reestablish non-masking policies in schools.

Beyond that call for change to lift the school mask mandate, comes one big one from Monmouth County Assemblywoman Vicky Flynn, who feels something needs to be done to address learning loss that became an issue during the pandemic in New Jersey with all the mandates.

It also shines a light on an issue that she feels has long needed to be addressed.

"I think, at this point, not returning back to normal is more detrimental to the kids in their social and emotional learning," Flynn, who prior to being elected last November had served as the President of the School Board in Holmdel, tells Townsquare Media News. "I mean, prior to the pandemic, that was the big talking point -- what are we doing as a state to address the social, emotional, learning needs of our students? Many board members I'm sure have heard that and I know that, in Holmdel, we invested significant dollars in each year's budget to enhance the social and emotional concept in our buildings and for our students."

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Flynn said there needs to be a similar approach to schools and students statewide as well, which includes teaching the younger kids how to read.

"There's been so much damage done due to this pandemic," Flynn said. "I mean, think about the kids who were in grades K-3 during this pandemic, studies all show that if you don't know how to read by 3rd grade, the remediation required is tremendous to really get you to catch up. I don't understand why we're not addressing that now. That needs to be the conversation, we need to get away from mask mandates -- and we need to get talking about the real issues affecting our kids, and that's learning loss."

This push to address learning loss and help students learn, grow, read, and flourish in schools has been a priority for Flynn for years, and it's a goal of hers in the Assembly as well.

"There's a lot of work that needs to be done and it's not just Holmdel, it's everywhere, it's all over Monmouth County, it's all over the state. That's why I wrote to Governor Murphy multiple times, during my tenure as a board of ed president. I wrote to him, first for graduation, when we were initially going through the pandemic, making sure that kids got to graduate because it's an important right of passage, and we ended up in Holmdel being able to do something in July. Secondarily, though, was these issues with these lockdowns and virtual learning -- we needed to get these kids back in the school in the most normal environment possible. So, as we ended the 2020-2021 school year, it was mask optional. In Holmdel, we measured, for nine-straight weeks we no cases of Covid, so we ended on a positive note and we were ready to go to school mask-optional if we needed to in the fall."

That's when Flynn explains that Governor Murphy imposed another mask mandate.

It was then, she renewed her push, requesting for Governor Murphy to take a look at what Holmdel Schools were doing to prevent spread and use that as a blueprint for the rest of the state.

"I wrote to him, I said please come see what we're doing here in Holmdel," Flynn said. "I think what we did worked, it helped to mitigate the spread of the pandemic and the virus. So, I really encouraged him to come and see the work that we did in Holmdel, and that was not only because I was trying to address the concerns of Holmdel students and the parents that wanted students back in the most normal environment possible, but I was thinking about the schools that the state operates, are they doing what we're doing in Holmdel."

The learning loss issue as a whole is something that will take some time to address and find solutions for with the ultimate goal is helping students learn, read, grow, and succeed in school.

"This is a problem, and in society, we're going to see the big problems because these kids didn't have a normal educational experience," Flynn said. "I think it's a 10-year, 20-year problem and we need to address it now so that we can nip it in the bud and start putting the state on the trajectory it needs to be on."

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