New Jersey Advises School Districts to Make Mask-Wearing Decisions Individually

By: Kaitlyn Kudriavetz, Follow South Jersey Child Welfare Intern

Photo: Ryan Schumacher | Follow South Jersey

TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey schools are advised to continue making mask-wearing decisions based on individual districts following the loosened policy from the end of the recent school year.

After some districts cleared mask requirements entirely by June, prompted by state exceptions due to excessive heat, students across New Jersey were having mixed masking experiences during the final days of school.

“Masking rules don’t apply to summer school, and schools can establish their own protocols,” Michael Yaple, a spokesperson for the New Jersey Department of Education, told on July 7.

The state’s stance on mask-wearing at summer schools is similar to its policy on mask-wearing in general. Since New Jersey has reached its goal of fully inoculating 70% of the adult population against COVID-19, residents aren’t required to wear masks. Unvaccinated community members are still strongly encouraged to wear masks — especially as the Delta variant of COVID-19 has caused an uptick in cases — but they don’t have to.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy recently announced that the state will not require mask-wearing at schools when the new academic year begins in September. Instead, he’ll continue to leave summer school decisions regarding mask-wearing up to the independent districts.

“School districts will be able to determine masking policies at the local level. Regardless of the district’s policy on masking, schools cannot prevent students or staff from wearing masks if they choose,” the state’s website says.

Mask wearing in schools has become a contentious issue in some districts. In June, the superintendent of the Manalapan-Englishtown Regional school district was placed on leave after he refused to make mask-wearing optional. The district made masks optional for students shortly after the superintendent’s leave began.

Correction: An earlier version of this story had a headline that said schools should make mask-wearing decisions individually. This has been updated to clarify that school districts should make those decisions individually. We apologize for the error.

This article was produced by a Follow South Jersey news intern thanks to a grant provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through the New Jersey Health Initiatives program to create hyper-local news to meet the informational and health needs of the City of Bridgeton, N.J.