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Kids in School with Face Mask

New Jersey Will Require Students To Wear Masks In School, New Guidelines State

New Jersey Governor, Phil Murphy, announced Monday that the state is still planning to reopen all of its schools come the fall. In-person classes will resume, and all students will be required to wear masks in school buildings at all times. 

The announcement came along with a new set of reopening guidelines that states all students are “required to wear face coverings at all times while inside a school building regardless of social distancing.” The only exception would be for students with any kind of medical conditions that would potentially prevent them from wearing a mask, however, those are more so going to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.  

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Previously the guidelines stated that students would only be “strongly encouraged” to wear masks and they would only be required to do so in crowded hallways and any other spots on the campus where it’s difficult to avoid crowds. All teachers, staff and visitors of the school will also be required to wear a mask at all times. 

“We know that face coverings work and we will now ensure that everyone in a school building will wear one.”

Governor Murphy continued on to discuss how the updates are safer than the previous recommendations, however, he didn’t discuss ways in which these policies would be enforced to ensure everyone is following the rules. The changes did state that students and teachers would be able to take “face covering breaks” throughout the day in specified areas of campus where social distancing can be maintained; mainly outside or in large classrooms with open windows. 

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All school bus riders and drivers will also be required to wear a mask. The Department of Education in Jersey also claims that they understand “enforcing the use of face coverings may be impractical for young children or individuals with disabilities,” which has raised a lot of red flags for parents and teachers as well. Many believe that if we aren’t able to enforce these policies that are meant to protect all students/staff health and safety, then why are we reopening the schools at all?

School leaders and advocates in Jersey specifically criticized the 104-page set of guidelines for the lack of clarity but abundance of “emphasis on safety,” without any means of execution. The guidelines also were unclear as to who would be paying for facial coverings and other technologies to be implemented into the schools; hand sanitizer/hand washing stations, temperature checks, etc. The updates do, however, state that families will be responsible for supplying the kids masks, but the districts “should strive to provide” additional PPE. 

New Jersey reported 264 new cases of the coronavirus this past Monday, bringing the state total to 182,614, and according to healthcare workers in the state, the virus is now spreading faster than its being contained. The state’s largest teachers union responded to these statistics by calling upon the government to go remote-only in the fall, however, Murphy and his administration are adamant about opening the schools. 

Murphy claims that the state’s Department of Education will be sharing a Frequently Asked Questions document shortly, as well as a checklist of items that state and county offices of education will be using to guarantee their specific districts are adhering to the new set of guidelines.