On Aug. 23, Gov. Phil Murphy signed Executive Order No. 253, requiring all preschool to grade 12 school personnel to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 18 or be subject to testing at a minimum of one to two times per week.
This requirement will strengthen protections against the spread of COVID-19, including the highly transmissible Delta variant, to children in school settings, many of whom are under 12 years old and not yet eligible for vaccination, the governor said.
“NJSBA supports measures that help ensure the health and safety of children and staff. We believe our top priority this school year is safely returning students and staff to in-person learning,” said NJSBA Executive Director Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod. “Under this Executive Order, teachers and school staff have an option to be tested regularly for COVID, if they cannot be vaccinated, or choose not to be.”
In his remarks, Gov. Murphy referenced options for districts, including funding sources and a free New Jersey Department of Health testing program that will soon be implemented for interested districts. NJSBA looks forward to hearing more about these plans.
On Aug. 6, the governor issued an executive order requiring all students, teachers, staff and visitors to wear face masks in school buildings. A story covering that order appeared in the Aug. 10 issue of School Board Notes.
Executive Order 253 clarifies that people seeking a medical exemption from mask wearing will be required to produce written documentation from a medical professional to support that exemption. Self-attestations and parental attestations are not sufficient.
“Scientific data shows that vaccination and testing requirements, coupled with strong masking policies, are the best tools for keeping our schools and communities safe for in-person activities,” Murphy said in a press release. “We will continue to work collaboratively with school officials, teachers unions, and public-sector union partners over the next several weeks as this new requirement goes into effect.”
The executive order requiring vaccinations covers:
- All people employed by a preschool to grade 12 setting, both full- and part-time, including, but not limited to, administrators, teachers, educational support professionals, and people providing food, custodial, and administrative support services;
- Substitute teachers, whether employed directly by a preschool to grade 12 setting or otherwise contracted; and,
- Contractors, providers, and any others performing work in preschool to grade 12 settings whose job duties require them to make regular visits to such covered settings, including volunteers.
The order does not cover people who visit schools only to provide one-time or limited-duration repairs, services, or construction, the governor’s office said.