Facial coverings for students, staff and visitors will be optional in classrooms and hallways beginning March 7, East Windsor Regional School District officials announced Feb. 28.
Masks also will be optional on school buses, said Superintendent of Schools Mark Daniels. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has dropped the federal mask requirement for buses and vans operated by public and private schools.
“Students, staff and visitors will still be permitted to wear masks, (but) it is critical that we respect personal decisions that are made regarding mask wearing as we move forward,” Daniels said.
The school district will not tolerate incidents of disrespect or bullying that occur as a result of a student or staff member’s decision to continue to wear a mask, he said. Disciplinary action will be taken.
The East Windsor Regional School District’s decision to drop mandatory mask wearing follows Gov. Phil Murphy’s announcement Feb. 7 that masks or facial coverings would not be required in schools and childcare facilities beyond March 7.
Murphy cited the statewide drop in COVID-19 cases for lifting the mask mandate, but the governor left it to each school district to decide whether it wanted to continue masking.
Daniels also cited the decline in COVID-19 activity statewide as one factor in reaching the decision to make masks optional. The activity level has dropped from very high to moderat” since January, he said.
There has also been a drop in the number of positive cases of COVID-19 among students in recent weeks, Daniels said. There were zero positive cases of the disease among students in the school district during the week of Feb. 21.
Since Sept. 9, 2021, there have been 183 positive cases of COVID-19 among students and 123 positive cases among staff, according to the school district’s COVID-19 dashboard.
The COVID-19 dashboard tracks cases of illness among students who attended school in-person or who participated in extra-curricular activities, and staff who worked on campus.
However, the mask mandate may be brought back under certain circumstances, such as a return to “very high” or “high” activity, based on guidance provided by the New Jersey Department of Health, Daniels said.
If there is an outbreak or significant increase in cases, the district will consult with the East Windsor Township Health Department to determine if short-term universal masking or masking in the affected classrooms is needed to contain an outbreak, he said.
Students and staff who are returning to school during the sixth to 10th day of isolation or quarantine would need to wear a mask, Daniels said. Anyone who becomes ill during the school day would be required to wear a mask until they leave the building.
Although it is not mandatory, students or staff who are immunocompromised or who live with a family member who may be at high risk of COVID-19 should consider wearing a mask, he said.
Anyone who is concerned about contracting or spreading COVID-19 also should consider wearing a mask, Daniels said.