On August 6, Gov. Phil Murphy announced that all students, educators, staff, and visitors will be required to wear face masks indoors for the start of the 2021-2022 school year. The Governor signed Executive Order (EO) 251, which will mandate masking in the indoor premises of all public, private, and parochial preschool, elementary, and secondary school buildings, with limited exceptions. The EO is effective on Monday, August 9, 2021.
In recent weeks, both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and American Academy of Pediatrics have called for students to wear masks due to the increasing prevalence of the Delta COVID-19 variant, the ineligibility of those under 12 for vaccination, and a rise in pediatric COVID-19 cases.
“We understand that students learn best in a classroom setting and remain committed to having our schools open for full-time, in-person instruction this fall,” said Governor Murphy. “While this announcement gives us no pleasure, I know that by taking this precaution we can keep our schools open while also keeping our children safe. We will continue to closely monitor the science and data and will lift this mandate when we can do so safely. I urge those who are eligible for vaccination but have yet to be vaccinated to act and help move our state in the right direction.”
While masks will be broadly required in school buildings for the coming school year, exceptions will remain unchanged from the 2020-2021 school year, and include:
- When doing so would inhibit the individual’s health, such as when the individual is exposed to extreme heat indoors;
- When the individual has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a face covering without assistance;
- When a student’s documented medical condition or disability, as reflected in an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Educational Plan pursuant to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, precludes use of a face covering;
- When the individual is under two (2) years of age;
- When an individual is engaged in an activity that cannot be performed while wearing a mask, such as eating and drinking or playing an instrument that would be obstructed by the face covering;
- When the individual is engaged in high-intensity aerobic or anerobic activity;
- When a student is participating in high-intensity physical activities during a physical education class in a well-ventilated location and able to maintain a physical distance of six feet from all other individuals; or
- When wearing a face covering creates an unsafe condition in which to operate equipment or execute a task.
To stay up to date with the latest announcements from the governor, visit https://nj.gov/governor/.