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Freehold Regional will become mask-optional district March 7

Following Gov. Phil Murphy’s announcement that beginning on March 7, the mandatory mask mandate that has been in place in New Jersey’s schools during the coronavirus pandemic will be lifted, Freehold Regional High School District Superintendent of Schools Charles B. Sampson has informed parents, students and staff members the district’s facilities will become mask-optional locations on that date.

In a letter to the community, Sampson wrote, “Since the pandemic began, we have followed the requirements of the Governor and recommendations from the New Jersey Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and our local health departments when making decisions related to health issues.

“Based on the Governor’s decision and the sharply declining number of COVID-19 cases in our school community, the Freehold Regional High School District will move to a mask-optional environment on March 7. Students and staff are welcome to wear a mask if they choose.

“It is important to note the end of the mask mandate does not relate to school buses. The federal requirement that masks be worn on public transportation remains in place. This means that while riding on a school bus, a mask must still be worn.

“While masks will be optional within our buildings, the district will continue with mitigation measures including physical distancing when practicable, improved ventilation, enhanced cleaning procedures, and keeping students and staff home when symptomatic.

“We will continue to monitor local data and information and guidance forthcoming from the Department of Health,” Sampson wrote.

The FRHSD’s sending municipalities are Colts Neck, Englishtown, Farmingdale, Freehold Borough, Freehold Township, Howell, Manalapan and Marlboro.

The district’s high schools are in Colts Neck, Freehold Borough, Freehold Township, Howell, Manalapan and Marlboro. The administrative offices are in Englishtown.

Noting the significant decline of statewide COVID-19 metrics, Murphy announced on Feb. 7 that masks and facial coverings will no longer be mandated for students, staff members or visitors in schools and childcare centers effective March 7.

“Thankfully, we have reached a point where we feel confident we can take another step toward normalcy for our kids. Given the continued drop in new cases and hospitalizations, projections indicating a continued decline over the coming weeks, and the continued growth of vaccinations for our school-age population, we believe we can responsibly end the universal mask mandate,” Murphy was quoted as saying in a press release.

In announcing the lifting of the mask mandate, Murphy said school district administrators and the operators of childcare facilities can choose to continue to implement universal masking policies after the mandate is lifted in March.

Schools that do not impose universal masking should revise their COVID policies to use masking among other prevention strategies under certain circumstances, according to the press release.

Schools will not be permitted to prohibit the use of facial coverings by individuals, according to the press release.

Prior to the mandate being lifted, the New Jersey Department of Health will release guidance to help school districts update their policies to align with the risks and unique needs of their setting and student population to ensure safe learning environments, according to the press release.

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