New Bordentown superintendent addresses mask mandate for upcoming school year

PHOTO COURTESY OF PRINCETON FAMILY YMCA

The 2021-22 academic year is less than a month away and new Bordentown Regional School District Superintendent Trudy Atkins is looking forward to seeing students back in the classroom full time.

“Our No. 1 objective was having students back in school full time,” Atkins said regarding the upcoming school year. “It’s a vibrant atmosphere when students and teachers are in the schools. That’s what we’re most excited about.”

Atkins, who comes to Bordentown after spending the last 14 years in the East Brunswick Public Schools, has made it a priority since taking over as superintendent to devise a course of action in regards to COVID-19 related issues for the upcoming school year.

That has included developing a Bordentown Road Forward committee that is devised of Board of Education members, administrators, educators and parents.

Atkins said the group has met since the middle of last month to go over safety protocols and practices that would be installed in the school district when students return to the classroom.

A major topic of discussion during those conversations were masks, and if there should be a mandate for all teachers and students in the school district to wear masks at the start of the school year.

Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order on Aug. 6 that requires all students, educators, staff and visitors to wear face masks indoors for the start of the 2021-22 school year, citing the increasing prevalence of the COVID-19 Delta variant. The executive order went into effect on Aug. 9.

Before the governor’s announcement, Atkins and the committee surveyed the Bordentown community to get thoughts from parents on voluntary vaccine status and masking for students and staff before making a decision on the matter.

Atkins said of the recent developments “Gov. Murphy’s mask mandate takes that decision out of the hands of local education authorities. Some families will be pleased and relieved and some families will not be happy with that decision. The Bordentown team will do our best in terms of cleaning protocols to continue to keep our students safe during the upcoming school year.”

As the committee finalizes its course of action for the start of the upcoming school year, Atkins added that there has been a “good” ongoing dialogue between everyone associated with the committee.

“There is an ongoing dialogue on how we can move the district forward during the pandemic and keep kids safe,” she said.

The first full day of school for Bordentown students is scheduled for Sept. 3.