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Gov. Phil Murphy. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

State won’t require masks in schools in September

By Nikita Biryukov, June 28 2021 3:40 pm

The state government will not require school children be masked once classes resume in September, Gov. Phil Murphy announced.

Murphy had previously said masking requirements for middle and elementary school students would likely persist into the new school year.

Districts will be allowed to implement their own masking mandates as they see fit, he said, and those who wish to wear masks absent any requirement can do so.

“Absent any dramatic change in our situation before the beginning of the school year that will require a change in policy at the state level, masking by school students while in their school buildings will not be mandatory unless their district decides to require masking as part of their own protocols,” Murphy said.

Masks will still be required on school busses. Administration officials cited guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that requires mask wearing while commuting using mass transit systems. That includes school busses.

Over the last month, Republicans had made masking in schools one of their key issues, hoping to animate mask-weary parents and children opposed to the rule.

Existing rules allowed students to forgo masking in cases of extreme weather, like the heat wave in early June, though some schools did away with mask requirements even without oppressive heat.

The governor warned the policy could shift again if the state sees a surge of cases or more restrictive guidance from the CDC, though he said he did not expect either of those to come to pass.

The new guidance comes with some other recommendations for schools looking to avoid outbreaks of COVID-19. School lunches are to be staggered to reduce large student gatherings, and self service should not be allowed in cafeterias, the guidance says.

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