Earlier this evening, public reports indicated that Senate President Steve Sweeney is unwilling to include an extension to the mask mandate currently in place in New Jersey’s public schools as part of a resolution before the Legislature to reauthorize certain COVID safety measures that are otherwise set to expire on Tuesday, Jan. 11. NJEA’s officers, President Sean M. Spiller, Vice President Steve Beatty and Secretary-Treasurer Petal Robertson released the following statement:
“We are appalled at the idea that any member of the New Jersey Legislature would fail to support an extension of the mask mandate in our public schools that has helped protect students and staff during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. At a time when cases are surging and schools across New Jersey are struggling to remain open for in-person instruction, it is beyond irresponsible to let that vital safety measure lapse when it is supported by health, science, and common sense.
“Under current conditions, legislators should be looking for every opportunity to protect students and staff and help ensure that they can learn in the safest possible environment despite the staggering number of COVID cases New Jersey is experiencing. It is educational malpractice to ignore public health experts and to allow this important protection to lapse.
“Throughout this pandemic, we have called on the state and local school districts to follow the guidance of public health experts, which overwhelmingly recommends masking as a critical COVID-prevention measure. The failure to include this basic step to protect children would be dangerous, irresponsible and demonstrates a callous disregard for the health of the students and staff of New Jersey’s public schools.
“We call on Senate President Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Coughlin to step up and lead on this critical issue by ensuring that New Jersey’s school masking mandate stays in place until public health officials agree that it can safely be modified or removed. Until then, it is up to the 120 members of the New Jersey Legislature to join Gov. Murphy in ensuring that our schools are as safe as possible for all students and staff.”