Face masks for students and staff will be optional in classrooms and hallways beginning March 7, Lawrence Township Public Schools officials announced Feb. 28.
Masks also will be optional on school buses, said Superintendent of Schools Ross Kasun. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention dropped the federal mask requirement for buses and vans operated by public and private schools.
“We recognize that our school community members will receive this message with mixed emotions. The decision to wear a mask or not wear a mask in school will be a personal and private matter,” Kasun said.
School district officials will work diligently to ensure that no one is treated differently based on their decision to wear or not wear a mask in school, he said.
Kasun said that since the classrooms will contain a combination of masked and unmasked students, the district will not be able to enforce any parental request for mask monitoring.
The Lawrence Township Public Schools’ 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.
There has been a drop in the number of positive cases of COVID-19 among students in recent weeks, according to the school district’s COVID-19 dashboard. It tracks cases of illness among students who attended school in-person.
There were three positive cases among students between Feb. 24 and March 2, compared to 211 during the first week of school in January. Since Sept. 11, 2021, there have been 553 positive cases among students.
Although the mask mandate has been dropped, Kasun said masks may be required again during periods of elevated community transmission or when there is an active outbreak.
Meanwhile, students and staff who have been in isolation or quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19 may return to school on the sixth day if they are symptom-free. They will be required to wear a mask on days 6-10.
Parents and guardians of students who are close contacts of positive cases in school and staff members who are identified as close contacts of positive cases in school – vaccinated or unvaccinated – will be informed that they are close contacts and to closely monitor symptoms. They will not be required to quarantine.
Students and staff whose vaccination status is not up-to-date with vaccines and boosters and who are identified as close contacts of household members who have tested positive will be expected to quarantine for five days, Kasun said. They can return to school on Day 6 if they are symptom-free.
Students who are in isolation or quarantine can participate in school virtually, Kasun said.
Social distancing will continue to be in place, and hand-washing etiquette will continue to be expected. District sanitizing and disinfecting procedures will remain in place.
“Ensuring the safety and health of our students, staff and families and keeping our schools open is a priority,” Kasun said.