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School district loosens mask restrictions

Masks can be removed due to extreme heat.
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Masks can be removed due to extreme heat.

The Bayonne School District has loosened mask restrictions under certain circumstances and is allowing some students to return to the classroom four days a week, according to Superintendent of Schools John Niesz.

“Governor Murphy announced that local school officials are empowered to relax the previously required indoor face covering mandate due to increasing temperatures,” Niesz said on June 9. “We will continue to monitor the heat as it impacts our school buildings on a class-by-class basis for the remainder of the school year. Students and staff who are participating in outdoor activities are not required to wear masks.”

A number of new guidelines are now in effect. In buildings and classrooms without air conditioning, students and staff may remove face coverings when seated at their desks or standing behind plexiglass barriers.

When students and staff are in hallways or other spaces, face coverings should be worn. In buildings and classrooms with air conditioners, they will be required to wear face coverings.

Students and staff who wish to wearface coverings at all times may do so. Face masks are not required during outdoor activities.

“We will continue to advise our community as we receive updates and any specific guidance from the state of New Jersey,” Niesz said. “We thank you for your continued support as we manage learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The relaxation of the mask mandate marks another step towards returning to “normal” in schools. Starting the end of the first week in June, certain students could begin attending school in person four days a week if they choose.

Four days a week

Previously, Niesz had previously stated that if the district could make it through the month of May without a COVID-19 outbreak, the district would shift to a five-day in-person school week. The district returned to the classrooms on May 3 for the first time since it shifted to virtual instruction in March of 2020 at the onset of the pandemic.

In late May, Niesz announced that would not happen due to COVID-19 outbreaks in the district. However, days later, there was an about face and Niesz has announced some students could return to school four days a week.

Students who are already attending school in either Cohort A or Cohort B can voluntarily attend school in person four days a week, according to Niesz. Wednesdays will remain remote for all students.

Students in Cohort A or B can voluntarily come back four days a week. Niesz said it is not mandatory. Those who are currently learning virtually by choice will continue to learn virtually.

If a student is in Cohort A and goes to school in person on Monday and Tuesday, he or she can voluntarily attend on Thursday and or Friday. If a student is in Cohort B and goes to school in person on Thursday and Friday, he or she can voluntarily attend on Monday and or Tuesday.

“It is very important that we continue to monitor our health and stay home if we are not feeling well,” Niesz said. “The current number of COVID-19 positives in Bayonne continues on a downward trend. We would like to stress this plan is voluntary, and if you are comfortable with your child attending two days in person, you can continue to do so.”

Parents are advised to continue to follow the At Home Screening Tool via email each morning. If a student receives transportation and is in Cohort A or B and choosing to attend additional days in the week, parents will need to arrange transportation. Call Bayonne Board of Education Transportation at 201-858-5983 or email dept_transportation@bboed.org.

“If there are any further changes we will update our community ASAP,” Niesz said.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.

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