Murphy warns NJ schools not “to play games” with mask mandate
After another scolding from Gov. Phil Murphy about his mask mandates, a New Jersey school district has relented and tightened up mask rules for students.
The West Milford School District had made masks optional to start the year, citing an exemption for "extreme heat." However, the district now says they will enforce the mask mandate after parents objected to the relaxation of rules and Murphy warned districts "not to play games" with the mandate.
During Wednesday's coronavirus briefing in Trenton, Murphy acknowledged the "extreme heat" exemption, but then warned, "Don’t play games with us. Don’t use that as the excuse because you don’t want us to be wearing masks.”
Toms River, Brick, Lacey and a handful of other districts made masks optional as well, citing excessive heat.
In Marlboro schools, children will have the option to remove masks while learning if it is considered hot, on a day-by-day basis.
When pressed to quantify what the New Jersey Department of Health would classify as "excessive heat," Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said that parents should trust teachers and administrators to make that determination.
"We’re just going to have to trust that the teachers make the right decision for their students," Persichilli said at Wednesday's coronavirus briefing.
Murphy also declined to define excessive heat, but did tell reporters, "If it's warm enough for masks to be off it's also warm enough for classes to be held outside."
The issue of masking kids as classes resume for full-time, in-person learning has been a polarizing one. While there have been many vocal protests around the state, a recent Monmouth University Poll found the majority of parents do support students wearing a mask inside school buildings.
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