New Jersey school districts still deciding if their own mask mandates will end on March 7
Gov. Phil Murphy announced on Monday that the statewide in-school mask mandate will end on March 7. But individual school districts will have the option to keep the mandate in place if they choose.
School districts around the state are now trying to decide what option they will take once the state mandate ends.
The superintendent of the Kearny School District tells News 12 New Jersey that a decision has not yet been made. But that did not stop parents from weighing in.
“I’m really excited, I think it should be a choice,” says Jennifer Collins-Fonseca. “We do attend a lot of functions that we don’t wear masks to. Just seeing their faces again would be a nice thing.”
Other parents say that they could go either way, noting that their children have grown to accept masks.
“When I asked him today about the mask mandate, he was like, ‘Whatever the teacher wants me to do,’” says Nicky Rosa.
The Kearny Board of Education will need to be consulted before the local mandate can end.
The New Jersey Education Association has said that the union is cautiously optimistic about removing the mandate.
"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,” NJEA President Sean Spiller said in a statement. “That includes the possibility of maintaining or re-imposing the mask mandate for schools after March 7 if the date indicates that is the correct course.”
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But is reinstating the mandate inside of schools realistic? And could another surge or new variant of CODI-19 prompt new mandates?
“We will make that decision when the moment comes. Just as we did in December when we were well aware that Omicron was going to grow,” says Dr. Donna Nickitas, dean at Rutgers-Camden School of Nursing.
Nickitas says that she is all for the lifting of the mask mandate since cases of the virus, hospitalizations, testing and deaths are all down. She says that for it to work, children who are eligible need to be vaccinated.
“As long as we can continually increase the vaccination rates while the virus wanes, it’s really a positive step in many directions,” Nickitas says.
She cautions that the pandemic is not over, but she believes that it is safe for everyone to examine their own health risks and make their own decisions when it comes to masking.