As the 2021/22 school year begins, students, teachers, employees, and visitors of New Jersey’s K-12 schools will be required to wear masks and socially distance due to the rise in the strength of the Delta variant of COVID-19, under executive order 251 signed by Governor Phil Murphy. The order goes into effect today.

Henry Hudson Tri-District Superintendent Dr. Tara Beam issued a letter to the district’s facebook page this morning to inform the community of the order. In the letter, she noted:

“This Executive Order goes into effect Monday, August 9, 2021 and will stay in effect until the order is revoked or revised. Therefore, beginning Monday, August 9, all staff, students and visitors of Henry Hudson Regional School, Atlantic Highlands Elementary School and Highlands Elementary School, regardless of vaccination status, will be required to wear face masks except in the following circumstances listed in the Executive Order:”

Exceptions to Wear Masks Rule

• When doing so would inhibit the individual’s health, such as when the individual is exposed to extreme heat indoors;
• When the individual has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a face mask without assistance;
• When a student’s documented medical condition or disability, as reflected in an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Educational Plan pursuant to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, precludes use of a face mask;
• When the individual is under two (2) years of age;
• When the individual is engaged in activity that cannot physically be performed while wearing a mask, such as eating or drinking, or playing a musical instrument that would be obstructed by a face mask;
• When the individual is engaged in high-intensity aerobic or anaerobic activity;
• When a student is participating in high-intensity physical activities during a physical education class in a well-ventilated location and able to maintain a physical distance of six feet from all other individuals;
• When wearing a face mask creates an unsafe condition in which to operate equipment or execute a task.

In conjunction with the signing of the Executive Order on Friday, Murphy spoke in East Brunswick saying, “We understand that students learn best in a classroom setting and remain committed to having our schools open for full-time, in-person instruction this fall.” He noted that “While this announcement gives us no pleasure, I know that by taking this precaution we can keep our schools open while also keeping our children safe. We will continue to closely monitor the science and data and will lift this mandate when we can do so safely. I urge those who are eligible for vaccination but have yet to be vaccinated to act and help move our state in the right direction.” The state’s medical and educational communities joined the Governor in their support of the mandate, citing science and a focus on student welfare.

In New Jersey, according to the Department of Health Covid-19 Dashboard, 1,208 more people daily have tested positive for COVID-19. There were 6 deaths yesterday and 651 new hospitalizations, and 59 people on ventilators.

Governor Murphy quoted statistics from the New Jersey Health Department, stating that 80% of new cases are among the unvaccinated. 95% of people who wind up being treated in the hospital are unvaccinated. 100% of people in New Jersey who died were unvaccinated.

In her letter, Dr. Beam writes, “I know that this is not the news that many members of our community wanted to hear. However, we are bound to follow the mandates set forth by these Executive Orders as well as the regulations that govern our schools. I want to reiterate that the Tri-District schools will be open in September for full-day, in-person instruction for all students five days a week. At this time, current mandates and regulations set forth by the Department of Education and Governor Murphy still do not allow for a fully virtual option for students for the upcoming school year. Therefore, we are looking forward to seeing all of our Henry Hudson Tri-District students when we open our doors in September!”

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Allan Dean

Allan Dean is editor, publisher, and founder of the Atlantic Highlands Herald. Published since 1999 and selected in 2000 by the Borough of Atlantic Highlands as one of their official newspapers, making...