District undecided on mask protocols for 2021-’22 school year

Officials say they will make an announcement at the end of July.

Gov. Phil Murphy announced on June 28 that mask wearing by students would not be mandatory, but up to individual districts. So will Cherry Hill schools require masks in the classroom come Sept. 9? 

The answer to that question has not been determined, but Superintendent Joseph Meloche said he expects an announcement on masking protocols at the July 27 board of education meeting. 

“For us … it’s too early for us to make a definitive statement about mask wearing,” Meloche said.

The superintendent has offered a general outline of the district’s plans for September, but said details would be released at subsequent board meetings. As it currently stands, the district is committed to providing five day, in person instruction for all students. 

As of May 17, Murphy rescinded the portion of his executive order allowing for remote instruction. That means the only scenario in which students will participate in remote instruction is if they have been exposed to COVID. 

The CDC released updated guidance on COVID prevention in schools on July 9. Meloche said that information is still being reviewed by the New Jersey health and education departments.  

The state’s current guidance is that schools should provide 3 feet of distance between students and limit the use of shared supplies and equipment. Masks must be worn by all students on buses because of the state’s public transit protocols. The district purchased 1,500 air purifiers using federal funds, so every office and instructional space will have one. 

Parents will still be asked to screen students every day for symptoms of COVID or any other illness. 

“We want people who are sick to stay home, so that they can get healthy before returning to school,” Meloche said.

The district also encourages anyone eligible for the COVID vaccine to get one before the start of school. The district will host vaccination clinics at Barton Elementary School on July 28 and at Beck Middle School on July 29. The Johnson & Johnson vaccination will be available to anyone over 18, with Pfizer vaccines offered to anyone aged 12 to 17. 

Those who receive the Pfizer vaccine will have a subsequent appointment for their second shot scheduled on Aug. 18 or 19 at the same locations. Information about how to sign up will be sent directly to township families.

The official first draft of the district’s revised continuity of learning plan for the 2021-2022 academic year will be presented at the next board meeting on Tuesday, Jul