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Freehold Township will shift to mask-optional model in schools

FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP – When the state’s school mask mandate is lifted on March 7, administrators in the Freehold Township K-8 School District will make the use of a mask optional for all individuals in the district’s schools.

Superintendent of Schools Neil Dickstein informed the News Transcript on Feb. 15 that masks will become optional in Freehold Township’s schools for students, staff members and visitors on March 7. Dickstein sent a letter to community members notifying them of the decision.

On Feb. 7, noting the significant decline of statewide COVID-19 metrics, Gov. Phil Murphy announced 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.

Even after the mask mandate is lifted in schools, a mask must still be worn by every person on a school bus due to a federal mandate from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

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