Newark Schools Might Go Mask-Optional in May

“The way that our numbers are looking right now is an indicator,” León told TAPinto Newark. “We have spring break which occurs two weeks prior (to May 2), so what the numbers look like upon return from spring break - that will help us finalize that decision.”

The district’s decision to go mask-optional would fall in line with actions officials have already taken to relax some COVID safety protocols.

Although masks are currently required inside school buildings, desk sneeze guards and footwear sanitizing stations were removed earlier this month. The decision to remove sneeze guards was supported mostly by teachers and staff, who expressed difficulties with trying to communicate with students.

Newark Teachers Union President John Abeigon told TAPinto Newark earlier this month that the union advocated for desk shields to be removed.

"The shields have got to go," he said. "It was an added muffle to the fact that the kids were already wearing a mask.”

Upon announcement of the district’s decision this month to relax some of its COVID safety protocols, Nancy Deering, a spokesperson for the district, said a potential uptick in new cases could reverse these decisions and that some protocols would be "reinstated if things change.”

Should cases remain low within district schools, some parents that were initially wary of sending their children back to school even with a mask mandate in place are beginning to feel more at ease.

One district parent, Yolanda Johnson, who is also CEO of Parents Educating Parents, a Newark-based organization that advocates for parent engagement in schools, told TAPinto Newark that she supported the decision to go mask-optional come May so long as screening and temperature checks remained in place.

“I sit on the [district's] Reopening Task Force, so when it came up, I thought it was a good idea,” said Johnson. “Parents still have a choice if they want their child to wear the mask, but what I did agree to is that if we were going to go maskless, then we should continue with temperature checks before they enter the building. They shouldn’t get rid of that.”

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published this page in News and Politics 2022-03-24 03:04:00 -0700