The mandate for masks in schools and childcare centers is set to end March 7 and the state has provided updated guidance for school settings regarding communication, vaccines, masking and more. In part, the state says it will still recommend masks in some situations, such as when there is a spike in COVID cases. All in all, the decisions about face coverings will be left up to individual school districts, preschools and daycare centers.

The guidance from the Department of Health is intended to help shape local policies. With this latest guidance, schools will be safe environments for learning, Gov. Phil Murphy said in his latest briefing. With increased vaccination numbers and a decrease in transmission and new cases of COVID, Murphy said he is confident in his decision to drop the mask mandate. Moving forward, school districts are encouraged to consult with local health departments to make the best decisions.

The NJ Department of Health recommends masking during elevated rates of community transmission, an active outbreak of COVID and when students return from isolation or quarantine, according to the guidance.

Some school districts such as East Orange and Camden City have already announced their intent to keep masks on in schools. Paterson, Plainfield, Hillside and Newark will follow suit. On the other hand, Clifton, Ridgewood, Haledon, Paramus, Lafayette, Mountain Lakes, Wayne and Wyckoff are set to adopt mask-optional policies. Under the new rules, schools cannot stop students from wearing masks if they choose to. NJ kids will still need to wear masks on buses.

As we approach the 2nd anniversary of the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Murphy said that he will be ending his regular COVID briefings.

Is your district going mask optional? How do you feel about the decision? Tell us in the comments.