NJ schools in limbo over possible mask mandate
New Jersey school districts are in limbo over mask rules when students return in the fall.
Gov. Phil Murphy continues to say he has no plans to demand all students in New Jersey to mask-up.
On CNBC, Murphy said it would take a "wholesale deterioration of health data" for him to implement a new mask mandate. Instead, he says he will leave that decision up to local districts.
The decision to punt the issue to more than 600 individual districts could cause confusion and conflict just as kids are set to return to classes full-time. With the American Academy of Pediatrics urging all school kids to wear a mask in school, districts will have to weigh the potential health benefits against the likely backlash from parents if they do require masking.
As the past school year came to a close, Murphy allowed districts to lift mask mandates. Most of them did. Most have also announced they intend to allow kids to go maskless in September, but that was before a surge of new COVID Delta infections. There is now data that shows infections rates among children are also rising sharply.
Parents in dozens of districts rallied in front of schools, staged protests and descended on school board meetings to demand an end to the mask mandates. Some school superintendents also questioned the need for masks and their effectiveness. If districts decide to require mask, you can expect more of the same.
The New Jersey Department of Education lists 2,493 schools in New Jerseym of which 1,981 are elementary schools. The state could also face the prospect of different mask rules from town to town, and even within the districts themselves.
For example, with the CDC saying that the fully vaccinated do not have to wear masks, and only kids 12 and older eligible to be vaccinated, a district could decide to let the high school go maskless but require them in elementary and middle schools.
Neighboring towns could adopt different rules, adding to the confusion and frustration in communities.
No additional districts have come out and said they will require masks when the new school year begins, but districts will have to make that decision in the coming weeks.
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