- Why did the Verona Public Schools become Mask Optional on March 7, 2022?
On February 7, 2022, Governor Murphy declared that the universal statewide mask mandate for schools and childcare settings was to be lifted on Monday March 7, 2022. The New Jersey Department of Health released updated guidance for K-12 schools on February 22, 2022, and provided further clarification during a meeting held on February 25, 2022. This information informed districts as they prepared to address the lifting of the mask mandate. An additional consideration is the fact that the Northeast Region is now in a low rate of transmission (Green). Therefore, the wearing of masks will be optional in the Verona Public Schools as of Monday, March 7, 2022.
- What does “Mask Optional” mean?
Mask-wearing is optional for all students and staff both inside and outside of the school building. This means that at any time, a student or staff member may choose to wear or not to wear a mask while inside or outside of the school, with the exception of those COVID-19 positive individuals returning to school on days 6-10, of isolation / quarantine, and for students or staff who become ill with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 while in school, per the NJDOH recommendations. In these cases, mask wearing is still required.
- What circumstances might cause the District to return to the COVID-19 protocols that were previously in place?
New guidance from the NJDOH, CDC or NJDOE, or shifts in the CALI Index for our region may require the District to revert to more stringent health precautions. This will only be done in consultation with the NJDOH and NJDOE. For example, if the transmission rate were to increase to high (orange) or very high (red) levels, changes would be necessary.
- Has the definition of a close contact changed?
In the K-12 setting, the close contact definition excludes students who were within 3 to 6 feet of an infected student if both the infected student and the exposed student(s) correctly and consistently wore well-fitting masks the entire time. Despite mask-wearing being optional, the school district must continue to adhere to the NJDOH close contact definition and administer the required contact tracing protocols.
Quarantine/Close Contact Procedures as of March 30, 2022
Parents will be notified if their child is considered a close contact with a COVID-19 positive individual in school. Close contacts, regardless of vaccination status, will not be excluded from school, unless they become symptomatic. Parents of a student who is a close contact should closely monitor their child daily for COVID-19 symptoms and refrain from sending their child to school if symptomatic.
Please also be advised that if your child is identified as a close contact, regardless of vaccination status, they will be required to wear a tight-fitting mask for 10 days from their initial exposure to the case as determined by the school nurse. If an exposed close contact is unable to wear a mask on days 1-10 following exposure, they should quarantine at home for the full 10 days or may return to school on day 8 with a negative test result collected at day 5-7 if they remain asymptomatic.
- Can I change my mind about whether or not to wear a mask?
Yes. The district recognizes that masking decisions are unique to each individual and based on each family’s specific situation; all district personnel will honor and respect those decisions. Please reach out to your school nurse or building principal with specific questions. If a student or staff member decides to wear a mask and does not have one with them that day, the school will provide a mask.
- What other changes are in place now that the mask mandate has been lifted?
Due to the fact that our region is currently experiencing a low rate of transmission of COVID-19, (Green), schools will make changes to several strategies that were necessary during higher rates of transmission. These strategies include:
- Using elementary school cafeterias for lunch rather than having students eat in classrooms. Middle school students may still opt to eat outside on school grounds when weather permits, and High School students still have the option of leaving the building for lunch.
- Classroom set up to allow for a wider variety of instructional strategies such as large and small group activities. Due to the currently low rate of transmission, proximity between desks will be less than 3 feet. If the transmission rate increases, we will adjust accordingly.
- Reduction / elimination of the use of plexiglass desk shields.
- Restoration of the use of instructional spaces for the Arts, and other special area courses.
- Field trips are being planned at all schools. While the federal requirement for the wearing of masks on school buses or other buses used by school districts is also to be lifted, social distancing requirements remain in place. The District will continue to maximize physical distance between students if occupancy allows and will encourage bus windows to be opened, weather permitting.
- What happens if we travel outside of New Jersey? Will my child(ren) need to follow isolation / quarantine requirements?
While there is no statewide travel advisory or mandate in place at this time, schools are encouraged to have a policy for exclusion for students and staff that travel that is consistent with CDC COVID-19 travel recommendations. For those traveling to/from New Jersey, domestic travel is defined as lasting 24 hours or longer to states or US territories other than those connected to New Jersey, such as Pennsylvania, New York, and Delaware.
- NJDOH Travel Recommendations
- CDC international travel recommendations
- CDC domestic travel recommendations
The District will follow COVID exclusion policies in place. These vary based on transmission rate, vaccination status, and/or negative test. During low transmission rate (green), ill individuals with COVID-19 compatible symptoms and do not have a known COVID-19 exposure may follow NJDOY School Exclusion List to determine when they may return to school. Please confer with your school nurse.
As of March 30, 2022, the following protocols are in place:
Regardless of vaccination status, the Verona Public School district will no longer require a 3-5 day quarantine upon return from domestic travel, nor will a test be required for re-entry into the school. Please be reminded that you must continue to self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms after traveling, isolate, and get tested if you develop symptoms. Those who are displaying COVID-19 symptoms should not attend school and should notify the school nurse of the COVID-19 symptoms displayed.
In regards to international travel, Verona Public Schools will still require non-vaccinated students and students not up to date with COVID-19 vaccine series, to quarantine for a full 5 days upon return from travel, get a COVID-19 viral test 3-5 days after travel, self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms and isolate and get tested if they develop symptoms. Please see this link or this link regarding updates to full vaccination status.
- Can I volunteer at my child’s school?
All volunteers must be approved by the school principal as has been required in the past. All part-time and full-time individuals, employed by all public, private, and parochial preschool programs and elementary and secondary schools, including charter and renaissance schools, are required to be fully vaccinated or submit to testing. Covered individuals include:
- Educational support professionals,
- Individuals providing food, custodial, and administrative support services,
- Substitute teachers, whether employed directly by a school or otherwise contracted, and,
- Contractors, providers, and any other individuals performing work in a school whose job duties require them to make regular visits, including volunteers.
If you have COVID-like symptoms or have tested positive for COVID-19, please contact your school nurse before arriving at the school, for more information.
- What if I am only visiting for a meeting or event outside of the school day?
As in the past, all visitors must have an appointment or an approved purpose for visiting the school during the school day. Our schools are currently “mask optional” environments due to the low transmission rate. If you have COVID-like symptoms or have tested positive for COVID-19, please contact your school nurse before arriving at the school, for more information.
If you plan to attend an event outside of the school day, please remember these are also mask optional events. If you have COVID-like symptoms or have tested positive for COVID-19, please contact your school nurse before arriving at the school event, for more information.
Additional update will be added as needed.