Arts Ed NJ, a statewide arts education resource, policy and advocacy organization, recently released guidance to assist school administrators and arts educators in the planning of indoor fall performances, such as concerts, plays, recitals and exhibitions.

The guidance is based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the New Jersey Department of Health and research findings from the International Coalition of Performing Arts Aerosol Study.

In an Oct. 14 memo to arts educators, school employees, school officials and health officers, the independent nonprofit organization issued guidance that applies to all performances on school property, including performances during non-school hours that include visiting artists.

There are currently no prohibitions related to indoor performances at schools. Arts ED NJ outlined the following audience and performer/performance considerations:

Audience Considerations

  • Masks are always required for everyone while on school property regardless of day or time (Executive Order 251). It is strongly recommended to avoid providing food and drink for the performance/exhibition.
  • There are currently no audience limitations in effect in New Jersey. Local school districts may impose their own restrictions for physical distancing.
  • Physical distancing should be followed in the lobby, bathrooms, auditorium and all indoor spaces, six feet where feasible. Consider additional performances with smaller audiences to allow for more physical distancing.
  • Most New Jersey Performing Arts Venues currently require proof of vaccination to attend indoor performances. This does NOT apply to scholastic performances.
  • All audience members should conduct a health screening prior to arriving at the school performance using the CDC Symptoms Self-Checking Tool. If an audience member is unwell, they should stay home.
  • It is highly recommended to create an even flow of audience members coming in and out of performance spaces. Establish a separate entrance and exit to allow for one-way traffic.
  • Strategies should be considered to reduce contact between individuals. This includes ticketing, programs, concessions and other interactions.

Performer/Performance Considerations

  • Masks should be always worn by all staff, volunteers and crew. Performers should always wear a mask except for:
    • Wind instrumentalists: They may remove their mask while performing. Once a performance has concluded, the mask should be returned to cover the face.
    • Wind instruments: Wind instruments should be masked with bell covers at all times.
    • Vocal performers: Masks should be worn at all times by vocal performers. Microphones should be used where feasible.
    • Actors/theatrical performers: Masks should be worn at all times by actors and theatrical performers. Microphones should be used where feasible.
    • Dancers: Masks should be worn at all times unless the dancer is “engaged in high-intensity aerobic or anaerobic activity” as outlined in Executive Order 251. In this instance, the mask may be removed for the performance and should be returned once a performance segment concludes.

More Tips

  • Screening testing is also an effective strategy as it adds another layer of prevention in combination with other mitigation strategies. Screening testing should be considered where feasible.
  • Performers should be spaced out at three feet (center of seat to center of seat) where feasible and further if space allows. If maintaining physical distancing of three feet is not feasible, other mitigation (masking, time limitations) should be strictly followed. Encourage physical distancing between individual performers (singers and musicians, teacher and student), and between performers and audience members.
  • All performers, faculty, and staff should conduct a health screening prior to arriving at the school performance using the CDC Symptoms Self-Checking Tool. If a performer/faculty/staff member is unwell, they should stay home.
  • Performances should be limited in duration based on the ventilation and size of the space. Performances held in smaller classroom settings should be no longer than 50 minutes. Performances in larger spaces (multipurpose rooms and auditoriums) may increase the performance time with good ventilation. There is no time limitation for facilities with an air flow rate of at least 52 cubic feet per minute per person.
  • When feasible, the performance should not include an intermission. For theatrical performances that include an intermission, spaces should be set up to allow audience members to socially distance themselves.
  • Proper hygiene strategies for audience members and performers should be followed at all times.
  • Avoid shared equipment where the mouth may meet equipment (such as mouthpieces, microphones, etc.) and follow manufacturer’s instructions to clean thoroughly between uses. Consider disposable microphone covers. Use proper cleaning strategies to wipe down dressing rooms, microphones (if used), props, set pieces, instruments, costumes and wigs.

All students benefit by being in school and participating in the visual and performing arts and other student activities, Arts Ed NJ says. The best way to keep them active at school is by promoting their health and safety. In its memo, it notes that the National Federation of State High School Associations and Arts Ed NJ encourage eligible students to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and take the necessary steps so that everyone can participate in the visual and performing arts.