Will New Jersey teachers have to be the mask police in class?

New guidance from the New Jersey Department of Education seems to suggest that not only will they have to keep track of how kids wear their mask, but also on how close kids are getting to one another.

A new memo to local districts define "close contact" in a classroom setting, and lists a key exception. IF both an infected student and a non-infected student are within 3-6 feet of one another, AND both were wearing a "well-fitting" mask, that is not considered a closed contact for COVID exposure.

That would likely put the burden of not only keeping an eye on how close the kids get, but whether they have a "well-fitted" mask that is being properly worn.

The exception does not apply to teachers or other staff that may have been exposed to an infected student.

In the K–12 indoor classroom setting, the close contact definition excludes students who were within 3 to 6 feet of an infected student (laboratory-confirmed or a clinically compatible illness) where both the infected student and the exposed student(s) correctly and consistently wore well-fitting masks the entire time. This exception does not apply to teachers, staff, or other adults in the indoor classroom setting. - excerpt from The Road Forward/NJDOE

The exception is included in updated guidance in "The Road Forward," a guide from the state Department of Education that spells out the Murphy administration's policies for back to school in September.

There is no reference to mandatory vaccinations for teachers. Governor Murphy is expected to announce the mandate as early as today. It's been widely reported he will require all teachers to be inoculated against COVID, but it is not clear if he will offer an exemption in exchange for regular COVID testing.

It also does not spell out what happens if kids refuse to wear their masks, or what happens if there is an exposure. The guide only states that county and local health departments will work with the school to determine next steps based on transmission levels in the community.

According to the CDC, every county in New Jersey now has a high transmission rate.


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