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Eatontown awaits guidance before deciding on school mask policy

EATONTOWN – Administrators in the Eatontown Public Schools are awaiting state guidance before determining if masks will be optional for all individuals in the district’s schools on March 7.

As of Feb. 15, Eatontown administrators had not announced if masks will remain mandatory or become optional on March 7 when New Jersey’s mask mandate is lifted.

In a message that has been posted on the school district’s website, Superintendent of Schools Scott McCue said Eatontown has adhered to guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the New Jersey Department of Education and the New Jersey Department of Health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Using guidance from these health agencies, as well as guidance from our school physician and the Monmouth County Health Department, the district has navigated through the pandemic in a safe and responsible manner.

“Over the next few weeks, the district will await further guidance from the Department of Education and the Department of Health for how schools can implement this new direction in protocol and procedure in the near future.

“Although the data suggests that communities must work together and establish a new normal in living with the virus, the state will need to update its current guidance in order to make a mask-optional policy or any other change in mask policy practical for students and staff.

“Currently, the social distancing guidance used for contact tracing is based upon all individuals wearing a mask in school. Another question to be addressed is whether masks would be required in the instance that a community or a school has an outbreak.

“Please be patient as the district works through these issues. The goal is to communicate the district’s position on the status of masks in school to the school community well before the March 7 date,” McCue wrote.

In announcing the lifting of the mask mandate, Gov. Phil 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 on March 7.

Schools that do not impose universal masking should revise their COVID policies to use masking among other prevention strategies under certain circumstances, according to a Feb. 7 press release from the Governor’s office.

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.

Parents should note that the lifting of the mask mandate in schools does not relate to school buses. The federal requirement that requires a mask to be worn on public transportation remains in place. This means that while individuals are riding on a school bus, a mask must still be worn.

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