Hudson County school districts reconsider mask mandates after governor’s order

Jersey City interim Superintendent Dr. Norma Fernandez said that they plan to make masks optional in the school district. Screenshot via The School District of Jersey City.

By Daniel Israel and Mark Koosau

Hudson County schools are reconsidering their rules regarding mask wearing after Gov. Phil Murphy announced that he would lift the mask mandate for New Jersey school districts on March 7.

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Some districts such as Secaucus are taking their time to make a decision, while others such as Jersey City, Hoboken and Bayonne have indicated they will make masks optional at one point or another.

Jersey City

The second largest school district in New Jersey will be looking to make masks optional for students and staff following the governor’s order, but will be consulting with others first before deciding when it will happen, according to interim Superintendent Dr. Norma Fernandez.

“We’re looking to follow the mandate, but in a careful manner,” she said. “I will be taking information from different stakeholders – parents and staff – so that we do eventually eliminate the use of masks. But right now, we haven’t made a hard decision as to exactly when it will happen and how it will happen.”

She followed up by saying that mask wearing is a healthy practice that they’ve learned from the pandemic and will continue to have it as an option.

Bayonne and Hoboken

In Bayonne and Hoboken, both districts have opted to make masks optional in March.

“As per Governor Murphy’s guidelines, masks will be required in all buildings in the Bayonne School District until March 7,” read a memo sent to staff from the Bayonne Board of Education. “After March 7, face masks will be optional. More information will be provided before that time.”

Superintendent of Schools John Niesz confirmed this to the Hudson Reporter, adding: “Masks are going to be optional. If anything changes, we will adapt.”

Hoboken will also make mask wearing optional for students and staff on March 7, according to Superintendent Dr. Christine Johnson.

Earlier in the week during their Board of Education meeting, Dr. Johnson said that they had sent a survey to all families and staff regarding the mandate.

Secaucus

In Secaucus, the district is still weighing the end of the mandate and will make a decision at the Feb. 17 Board of Education meeting, according to Acting Superintendent of School Daniela Riser.

“The Governor rescinded the mask mandate for all schools in New Jersey,” Riser said. “What this means is that districts have the option to make indoor mask-wearing optional for staff and students. However, it is up to the administration to decide what is best for our district.”

In the meantime, the district is polling the district regarding the mask policy.

“We have recently polled our staff and students to determine what their main concerns would be if masks were made optional in our buildings,” Riser said. “We plan to take these comments, our positive case numbers, as well as the recommendations from our local health officials, and make an informed decision on what our decision will be at our next board meeting on February 17th.”

North Bergen and Weehawken

In North Bergen, Superintendent of Schools Dr. George Solter said that it may be time for the policy to be rescinded, but he is still coordinating with the Department of Health, parents, teachers, and others involved before making any decisions.

In Weehawken, Superintendent of Schools Eric Crespo has said that the district will lift the mask mandate, making masks optional come March 7, as long as things continue to progress positively in regards to COVID-19.

Other Hudson County school districts

Union City Superintendent of Schools Silvia Abbato and West New York Superintendent of Schools Clara Brito Herrera did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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. Mark Koosau can be reached at mkoosau@hudsonreporter.com or his Twitter @snivyTsutarja.