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Are schools open? What are the safety requirements?

Last Updated: 06/29/2021

2021-2022 SCHOOL YEAR

All students will be back for full-time, in-person instruction for the 2021-2022 school year.

Parents or guardians will not be able to opt children out of in-person instruction as allowed for the 2020-2021 school year.

Public Health Guidance for In-Person Learning

The Department of Education, in partnership with the Department of Health, has produced a health and safety guidance document detailing recommendations designed to provide a healthy and safe environment for students and staff during the 2021-2022 school year.

These strategies are recommendations, not mandatory standards. The absence of one or more of these strategies should not prevent school facilities from opening for full-day, in-person operation.

Where possible, the Department's recommendations should be used to develop a layered approach to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, and schools should implement as many layers as feasible.

For full details on these recommendations, refer to the NJ's Department of Education and the Department of Health's health and safety guidance for the 2021-2022 school year.

The strategies and procedures include, but are not limited to:

Vaccination

Most K-12 schools will have a mixed population of fully vaccinated, partially vaccinated, and unvaccinated individuals at any given time, thereby requiring the layering of preventive measures to protect individuals who are not fully vaccinated. Local Education Agencies (LEAs) are encouraged to have a system in place to determine the vaccination status of students and staff, however, if an LEA is unable to determine the vaccination status of individual students or staff, those individuals should be considered not fully vaccinated.

LEAs should actively promote vaccination for all eligible students and staff. As vaccine eligibility expands, LEAs should consider school-wide vaccine coverage among students and staff as an additional metric to inform the need for preventive measures such as physical distancing and masking

Masks

Updated CDC guidance on masking in this setting is expected prior to the start of the 2021-2022 school year and will factor into the final recommendations from the State for masking this fall.

However, barring a significant change in health metrics, school districts will be able to determine masking policies at the local level. Regardless of the district's policy on masking, schools cannot prevent students or staff from wearing masks if they choose.

NOTE: Masks must be worn by all passengers on buses, regardless of vaccination status per CDC's Federal Order.

Social Distancing and Cohorting

Though physical distancing recommendations must not prevent a school from offering full-day, full-time, in person learning to all students for the 2021-2022 school year, LEAs should consider implementing physical distancing measures as an effective COVID-19 prevention strategy to the extent they are equipped to do so while still providing regular school operations to all students and staff in-person.

During periods of high community transmission or if vaccine coverage is low, if the maximal social distancing recommendations below cannot be maintained, LEAs should, where possible, prioritize other prevention measures including masking, screening testing, and cohorting.

Parental Screening

Parents/caregivers should be strongly encouraged to monitor their children for signs of illness every day as they are the front line for assessing illness in their children. Students who are sick should not attend school. Schools should strictly enforce exclusion criteria for both students and staff.

Schools should provide clear and accessible directions to parents/caregivers and students for reporting symptoms and reasons for absences.

Testing

At all levels of community transmission, NJ Department of Health recommends schools work with their local health departments to identify rapid viral testing options in their community for the testing of symptomatic individuals and asymptomatic individuals who were exposed to someone with COVID-19.

Response to Symptomatic Students and Staff

Schools should ensure that procedures are in place to identify and respond to a student or staff member who becomes ill with COVID-19 symptoms.

Sources: NJ Department of Education: The Road Forward