Murphy Refuses to Relent on School Mask Mandate
Despite protests from parents and a growing number of school districts demanding an end to the mask mandate for school kids, Governor Phil Murphy says his order remains in place.
Schools remain among the few exceptions after Murphy lifted the statewide mask mandate he ordered at the start of the pandemic. Murphy says he understands parents' frustrations. "I don't blame parents or kids for being stressed about this. Who could blame them? Everybody is," Murphy said during his COVID briefing on Wednesday. Murphy said if you've been vaccinated, the pandemic is over, but it continues for those who have not gotten vaccinated. That would include children under the age of 12, who are not eligible to be vaccinated.
Parents have been packing school board meetings and holding protests around the state demanding the mask mandate be lifted. At a recent rally in Point Pleasant parents decried the mask rule, saying we were teaching out kids to live in fear. An anti-mask petition started by New Jersey State Senate republicans has already gathered nearly 13,000 signatures.
A growing number of school superintendents have also asked the governor to relent. Mount Olive Schools Superintendent Robert Zywicki is among them. He helped the state education department craft back-to-school safety rules earlier this year when limited in-person classes resumed. Zywicki has repeatedly said schools will not see a true sense of normalcy until the mask rules are lifted.
While Murphy has left his mask mandate in place, he continues to say he is "open" to possibly lifting it. The lack of a vaccine for kids under the age of 12 is the main reason he cites for making kids mask up. To lift the order, Murphy cited three issues, "The wildcards are: we follow CDC guidance; will there be a vaccine for kids under the age of 12; will there be a - please God no - a third wave."
The governor also sees no sense of urgency in making any changes three months before full-time classes resume in the Fall, because a lot can change. He likened the decision to "throwing a light switch," saying he could make a decision the day before school starts. In the meantime, Murphy continues to tell parents and schools to expect kids to be told to mask-up at the start of he new school year, even though he says, "I hope the answer is that we don't."