Large N.J. school district will require face masks until mid-April –

The East Orange School District, among the 25 largest districts in New Jersey, will require face masks be worn indoors after March 7 — when the state will lift the requirement.

The school district, which has over 10,000 students, will continue to mandate students, staff and visitors wear masks while on school grounds or at district events, East Orange schools Superintendent AbdulSaleem Hasan said in a letter to the community Wednesday.

“Based on our conversations with the East Orange Health Department as well as feedback from our stakeholder survey, it is recommended that the East Orange School District continue the mask mandate until Thursday, April 14,” Hasan said in the letter.

Hasan said the mask requirement “is not optional, it is mandated.”

When asked if they’d like to extend the mask mandate “until we are sure that we are providing the safest environment for our children and employees,” about 87% of parents (1,130 responses), 83% of staff (829 responses) and 67% of students (580 responses) answered “yes.”

Hasan said that prior to April 14 the district will reassess its health and safety guidelines and communicate with the school community about next steps.

Since Gov. Phil Murphy announced face masks would soon no longer be required in schools, hundreds of districts throughout New Jersey have wrestled with whether masks will be mandated beyond March 7.

MORE: N.J. provides mask guidance for schools, child care with mandate ending soon. Here are the details.

Individual schools, districts, and child care centers can choose to continue requiring masks after March 7 — otherwise coverings will be optional for students or staff.

No facility will be allowed to ban masks, Murphy previously said.

Earlier this month, Murphy said the state can “responsibly” take this step because New Jersey’s daily cases and hospitalizations keep dropping after the recent surge driven by the omicron variant. Case figures have continued to decline since he announced the change to the mask policy.

Murphy’s decision comes even though the U.S. Centers for Disease Control continues to recommend masking in schools. The governor previously argued New Jersey’s “reality is dramatically different” than other states because it was hit hard early by omicron.

While some districts — such as Camden, South Orange/Maplewood and Newark — said masks will be required indoors after March 7, many more are still discussing possible changes to their mask requirements with families and staff members.

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Steven Rodas may be reached at Follow him @stevenrodasnj.

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