Passaic Public Schools (PPS) made the announcement through a letter penned by School Superintendent Sandra Diodonet. PPS is in charge of about 14,000 students enrolled in 17 schools within New Jersey's Passaic County.
"Effective Dec. 21, 2022, all employees, pre-K through grade 12 students and visitors are required to wear face coverings in all district facilities, school grounds and buses," Diodonet's letter stated. "When Passaic County is in the moderate or below range, the mask mandate will be lifted."
According to the superintendent, mask mandates will be in place "during periods of a high activity level" based on guidelines published by the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH). "We will continue to monitor the NJDOH COVID-19 Activity Level Report for the most current information," she added.
Many local residents slammed the return of mask mandates at PPS. Maud Maron, a former congressional candidate under the Democratic Party, was among them.
"This is anti-science, anti-child and just plain cruel," she tweeted in reply to PPS. "Shame on 'educators' who impose restrictions on children's learning, socialization and joy just because they can."
Parents Defending Education (PDE), a group opposing COVID-19 rules for schools and the teaching of critical race theory in classrooms, also opposed the decision.
"For two years, parents witnessed the detrimental social effects that masks had on their children's lives. [These] included difficulty building relationships with others because of an inability to read facial expressions, as well as generalized anxiety regarding crowds and proximity to others," the group said in a statement. PDE also mentioned "the impact on educational achievement, such as reading and language comprehension problems" that arose from mask mandates on children.
"Families are still dealing with the fallout from these policies, and will be doing so for years to come. For [school] districts across the country to yet again unilaterally impose mask mandates on suffering children defies logic. Different families have different levels of risk tolerance, and should anyone desire to have their children masked, they should be free to do so – but certainly not mandated."
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy lifted the statewide mask mandate back in March. He recently told a local news outlet that he does not foresee any mask-wearing orders in the Garden State "unless something drastically changes."
"I think people should just use their common sense. If you're not feeling well – certainly, if you test positive – take yourself off the field. That, to me, remains the right, sensible advice," he said.
"We don't want to mandate things that we can't enforce, and I don't think the market is going to bear that."
Meanwhile, the City of Brotherly Love's school district announced the return of mask mandates for a period of 10 days. It cited the "triple threat" of COVID-19, the flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) as a reason for students to mask up.
The School District of Philadelphia (SDP) announced on Dec. 14 that all K-12 students will be required to wear face coverings in classrooms and hallways from Jan. 3 to Jan. 13, 2023 – the first 10 days of school following the winter break. While the period actually spans 11 days, Jan. 8 is not included in the count as it falls on a Sunday. (Related: Philadelphia to require face masks in public schools for 10 days following winter break.)
"In an effort to be proactive in supporting healthy environments and maintaining in-person learning following students and staff returning from winter break, the [SDP] will implement mandatory masking," school district officials said in a press release.
SDP Superintendent Tony Watlington confirmed the mask mandate at a press conference. He described the decision as a "proactive measure" to prevent the spread of COVID-19, given that many "will be involved in quite a few social gatherings over the next few weeks."
Head over to CampusInsanity.com for more stories about school districts reinstating mask mandates.
Watch Paterson, New Jersey Mayor Andre Sayegh discuss possible mask mandates and virtual learning for the city's students below.
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