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Are schools open? What are the safety requirements?
2021-2022 SCHOOL YEAR
All students will be back for full-time, in-person instruction for the 2021-2022 school year.
All students, educators, staff, and visitors will be required to wear face masks inside of school buildings, regardless of vaccination status, for the start of the 2021-2022 academic year.
By October 18th, 2021, all workers in preschool through Grade 12 schools will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or be subject to COVID-19 testing at minimum one to two times per week.
Parents or guardians will not be able to opt children out of in-person instruction as allowed for the 2020-2021 school year.
Indoor Mask Requirement
All students, educators, staff, and visitors will be required to wear face masks indoors for the start of the 2021-2022 school year. Effective Monday, August 9, 2021, masks are required in the indoor premises of all public, private, and parochial preschool, elementary, and secondary school buildings, with limited exceptions, outlined below.
Exceptions to the mask requirement 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.
Individuals seeking a medical exemption from mask wearing will be required to produce written documentation from a medical professional. Self-attestations and parental attestations are not sufficient.
Additional 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:
By October 18th, 2021, all part-time and full-time individuals, employed by all public, private, and parochial preschool programs and elementary and secondary schools, including charter and renaissance schools will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or be subject to COVID-19 testing at minimum one to two times per week.
Schools and school districts should actively promote vaccination for all eligible students and staff.
Schools can employ routine COVID-19 screening testing to detect the virus, even among asymptomatic students and staff.
The Department of Health has dedicated $267 million to provide COVID-19 screening testing support to public and nonpublic K12 schools. Through this program schools will receive support to provide free on-site screening testing in schools to students and staff at no cost to the district. Districts are encouraged to work with local health departments to develop a testing strategy and consider participating in this program. Schools must opt-in or out of the testing program by September 13, 2021.
More information is available here: K12_school_testing_packet.pdf (nj.gov)
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, schools 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 cannot be maintained, schools should, where possible, prioritize other prevention measures including masking, screening testing, and cohorting.
Staying Home While Sick and Parental Screening
Students should stay home when sick.
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. 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.
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.