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Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District to go mask-optional

Beginning March 7, the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District will be mask-optional for students and staff members.

District administrators’ decision is in response to Gov. Phil Murphy’s recent announcement regarding New Jersey’s schools and masks during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

On Feb. 7, noting the significant decline of statewide COVID-19 metrics, 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.

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.

In a Feb. 10 letter to parents and guardians, Matawan-Aberdeen Superintendent of Schools Joseph Majka issued a statement regarding the district’s Safe Return Plan.

“Beginning March 7, all Matawan-Aberdeen regional schools will be ‘mask-optional’ for students and staff. Please note the district will continue to monitor the level of COVID-19 in the region and we will continue to consult with local and state health officials.

“We will adjust our plan accordingly if the current COVID-19 related data in our region increases, and/or based upon any future mandates issued by Gov. Murphy or the New Jersey Department of Health.

“We will continue to monitor staffing levels, staff health status, and child health status in order to maintain the highest level of instruction.

“As of today (Feb. 10), the federal mandate requires masks to be worn on school buses, even after March 7. We will continue to monitor this mandate and will adjust accordingly as new information and guidance is received,” Majka wrote.

According to the school district’s COVID-19 dashboard, confirmed cases for students and staff have decreased from 269 on Jan. 3 to two on Feb. 21.

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 from Murphy’s office.

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