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South Jersey schools announcing eased mask restrictions for end of school year
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South Jersey schools announcing eased mask restrictions for end of school year

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For those opting to forgo virtual learning and return to the classroom, things looked a bit different amid COVID-19 concerns this fall. At Emma C. Attales Middle School in Absecon, students were separated by partitions, and both teachers and students wore masks.

New York will lift more COVID-19 rules once 70% of its 20 million residents have at least one shot of the vaccine, a target that Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday he hoped would be reached in days.

Several New Jersey schools have announced masks will not be required for the remainder of the school year for students following Gov. Phil Murphy’s statement during his Monday media briefing.

Tuckerton Elementary School sent out a notice to parents early Tuesday that said, beginning Thursday, masks will be optional.

“Although our building is well air-conditioned, we want to be sensitive to the weather conditions,” the statement reads. “Masks are still encouraged for those with health concerns who are unvaccinated but will no longer be mandatory until or unless we receive different guidance.”

Murphy’s statement Monday at his regular COVID-19 response briefing coincided with the extreme heat in New Jersey over the past several days.

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“As a reminder to all school officials, our current masking requirements do include exceptions for cases of extreme heat in outdoor settings and for situations indoors or outdoors where wearing a mask would inhibit the individual’s health. School officials are empowered to relax masking among students and staff in their buildings given extreme weather conditions, and we hope they will make the right calls for their educational communities,” Murphy said.

About noon Tuesday, the Vineland School District sent out a letter to parents and posted a statement to its Facebook page.

“Due to the Governor’s announcement yesterday regarding face coverings, and the extreme heat that has impacted our HVAC Systems throughout the district, effective immediately, we are making face mask coverings optional for our staff and students while seated in the classroom or while outside of the school building for the remainder of the school year,” Vineland’s post reads. “Masks will still be required while students and staff are passing in the hallway between classes and on school busses. Because it is not possible to predict when and where HVAC issues may occur, it is critical that masks be optional, per the above, district-wide.”

The Egg Harbor Township School District, in its announcement Tuesday morning, said the relaxed mask requirements applied only to non-airconditioned locations such as school buses.

Murphy’s announcement follows calls around the state from some parents to unmask schoolchildren, although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing masks to stop the spread of COVID-19 for those who are unvaccinated.

Murphy eased restrictions last month for wearing masks indoors in many settings but excluded school buildings, noting that children under 12 were ineligible for vaccines. While he encouraged those who were not yet vaccinated to continue to wear masks in public settings, his executive order did not require it.

Contact Claire Lowe: 609-272-7251

clowe@pressofac.com

Twitter @clairelowe

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