Gov. Phil Murphy announced that effective March 7, less than a month from now, New Jersey would lift the mask mandate in schools.
The statewide requirement that all students, educators, staff, and visitors wear masks while indoors will be lifted at that time, this does not change how schools determine their own policies.
“We are not removing the ability of individual district leaders to maintain and enforce such a policy within their schools or any private childcare provider from maintaining such a policy within their business should community conditions require. Likewise, any student educator or staff member or visitor who chooses to continue masking up while indoors may freely do so,” Murphy said.
Montclair Education Association President Catherine Kondreck had this to say regarding the mandate:
“Dr. Ponds has been consistent in stating to the MEA that he will keep the mask mandate in place for the duration of the school year and we hope that should that decision change, we would be consulted. We trust the Board and Superintendent Ponds to make a decision that is in the best interest of all involved and to rely on the same science and data that has determined all past safety decisions.”
The New Jersey Education Association released its own statement regarding masking in schools. NJEA President Sean M. Spiller, Vice President Steve Beatty and Secretary-Treasurer Petal Robertson, released this statement following Gov. Phil Murphy’s announcement:
“We are encouraged by the data showing a rapid decline of COVID transmission in New Jersey. Because of that, we are cautiously optimistic that the current statewide school mask mandate can be safely relaxed in the near future, assuming current trends continue.
“As we have said from the beginning of the pandemic, it is critical to follow the data and listen to public health experts when implementing or removing COVID protocols. As of today, that data is trending strongly in the right direction, and we look forward to additional public health guidance supporting the move away from mandatory masking in schools.”
“We urge Gov. Murphy to continue to analyze the data and do whatever is necessary to best protect the health and well-being of students and staff. That includes the possibility of maintaining or reimposing the mask mandate for schools after March 7 if the data indicate that is the correct course.
“It is appropriate for Gov. Murphy to allow local districts to continue to require masking in communities where that is prudent based on local conditions. We also urge Gov. Murphy to direct the Department of Health to provide clear guidelines and metrics for local districts to use as they decide whether to continue mandatory masking based on local conditions.
“In addition, we continue to urge everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated. It is clear that the more people in our school communities who are vaccinated, the safer everyone in those communities will be. That is also the best way to prevent a resurgence of COVID that could result in the need to reinstitute protocols, such as masking, that we are on the verge of being able to move beyond.”