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.
Within North Brunswick Township schools, “there has been a steady decrease in the number of positive COVID cases since the middle of January. Therefore, with the expiration of Executive Order No. 251, on March 7, 2022, wearing a mask in school will be optional for all students and staff,” Acting Superintendent of Schools Janet Ciarrocca notified parents on Feb. 16.
Until the mandate is lifted on March 7, the current school mask requirement remains in place.
“We ask that our entire community be sensitive and respectful to everyone’s individual choice to wear a mask or to opt not to wear one.
“Any student or staff member who is cleared to return to school following a positive COVID case would have to wear a mask in school for days 6-10 following the onset of their symptoms. Additionally, students or staff who present with COVID-19 symptoms in the Health Office are required to wear a mask. This is in accordance with CDC guidance for presumed positive individuals.
“Masks will still be required to be worn on school buses,due to a federal mandate from the U.S. Department of Transportation. If and when this federal requirement is lifted, the district will not require masks to be worn on school buses.
“We continue to encourage vaccination, boosters, and staying home when sick,” Ciarrocca wrote.
Over the coming weeks, the New Jersey Department of Health will provide additional guidance for schools related to the impact of removing masks, if any, on social distancing, contact tracing, and other mitigation factors.
“We will continue to update the community as we receive additional information,” Ciarrocca wrote. “Finally, it is important to note that the district may need to pivot on any updates it makes if conditions warrant such a change. We appreciate your continued support and patience as we work through this continually shifting landscape.”
As of Feb. 9, South Brunswick Superintendent Scott Feder had not made a decision on the district’s policy, as he was awaiting further guidance from the governor, the Department of Health and the Department of Education.
Updates from the Feb. 24 Board of Education meeting were not available as of press time.