NJ schools use loophole to ditch Murphy’s mask mandate
A growing number of New Jersey schools districts are taking it upon themselves to relax mask wearing rules for the rest of this school year.
When he lifted the statewide mask mandate last month, Gov. Phil Murphy kept it in place inside all schools and classrooms. With the arrival of this week's heat wave, however, several school superintendent's raised questions about student health if they were forced to war a mask in a classroom that was not air conditioned.
Murphy said schools were empowered to relax the mask mandate in cases of "extreme weather." Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said the definition of "extreme weather" was being left up to local districts.
"We need to trust that they'll do the right thing," Persichilli said.
Several districts have taken advantage of the weather to allow kids to ditch the mask this week or longer.
The Lacey Township School District has made masks optional both indoors and outdoors for the last two weeks of the academic year.
Brick Township schools “relaxed” mask wearing for students and staff “going forward.”
Clark is requiring kids to keep their mask with them, but is not requiring their use.
East Brunswick schools made masks optional specifically during recess, physical education classes and “school sponsored and school led outdoor activities.”
Hamilton (Mercer) made masks optional for adults and students indoors through Wednesday with social distancing when possible.
Mount Olive schools have made masks optional outdoors or on non-air conditioned buses through at least Wednesday, but is still requiring masks to be worn in classrooms.
The move shows just how eager most school officials are to remove mask mandates for students. Gov. Murphy cited the lack of vaccine for children under the age of 14 as the reason he was keeping the mask mandate in place in school buildings for the remainder of this year and likely for the start of the new school year in September.
Several superintendents wrote to the governor asking him to reconsider. They cited guidance from the CDC, medical studies and New Jersey's own contradictory guidance as reasons kids should be able to go maskless.
Murphy rejected those calls, saying while he was "open" to revising back-to-school rules, he expected the mask mandate to be in place for kids in the fall.