An Aug. 3 update to the New Jersey Department of Education’s “The Road Back: Restart and Recovery Plan for Education,” revises its earlier guidance regarding the use of face coverings to require, rather than recommend, all students wear face coverings in school, except where doing so would inhibit the individual’s health or in certain situations that are listed exceptions.

The report, originally published on June 26, provides guidance in the “Conditions for Learning” section, which states students are strongly encouraged to wear face coverings and are required to do so when social distancing cannot be maintained, unless doing so would inhibit the student’s health.  The guidance included students riding a school bus.

Citing a CDC editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the NJDOE said, “This most recent research adds to a growing body of evidence that face coverings help prevent the person wearing the mask from spreading COVID-19 to others.”

The NJDOE also stated that it is necessary to acknowledge that enforcing the use of face coverings may be impractical for young children or individuals with disabilities.

The exceptions to the requirement for wearing face coverings include:

  • Doing so would inhibit the student’s health.
  • The student is in extreme heat outdoors.
  • The student is in water.
  • A student’s documented medical condition, or disability as reflected in an Individualized Education Program (IEP), precludes the use of face covering.
  • The student is under the age of two, due to the risk of suffocation.
  • During the period that a student is eating or drinking.
  • Face coverings should not be placed on anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious, or anyone who is incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the face covering without assistance (e.g. face coverings should not be worn by pre-K students during nap time).
  • The student is engaged in high intensity aerobic or anaerobic activities.
  • Face coverings may be removed during gym and music classes when individuals are in a well-ventilated location and able to maintain a physical distance of six feet apart.
  • When wearing a face covering creates an unsafe condition in which to operate equipment or execute a task.

The NJDOE also stated that information should be provided to staff, students and students’ families on the proper use, removal and washing of face covering.

Face Shields as a Substitute?  The department noted that currently the CDC does not recommend the use of face shields as a substitute for face coverings, so they may not be used to satisfy the face covering requirement.  However they may be an option for students with medical or other challenges that preclude the use of face coverings.

Face coverings should be provided by the student’s family or guardian, according to the NJDOE.  Schools should “strive to provide extra disposable face coverings for students who need them, and should provide face coverings for students that are experiencing financial hardship and are unable to afford them to the greatest extent possible,” the memo states.

The NJDOE also said that students and staff should be provided with “face covering breaks,” throughout the day, as frequent discomfort is a potential challenge associated with implementing the face covering requirements. “Face covering breaks should only occur when social distancing can be maintained and ideally outside or with windows open.”

PPE Equipment Now Offered Through NJSBA’s TEC Program  Personal protective equipment (PPE) and other solutions for protecting the health and safety of students and staff are now offered as part of the 21st Century Classroom Solutions offered through the NJSBA TEC program, which is part of the NJSBA TEC Cooperative Pricing system.  Among the items available: face masks; protective gloves; clear protective shields/barriers; fever-screening solutions; temperature/personal management kiosks; UV sterilizing lights, non-contact thermometers; hand sanitizer and cleaning wipes. Review pricing for select items, and watch the recording of a recent webinar event to learn more.