Dr. Vincent de Paul Schmidt, diocesan superintendent of Catholic Schools, released a memo June 30 updating the use of face masks in Catholic schools in the Diocese of Trenton for the upcoming school year.

“Masks on employed adults are optional,” the memo stated. “This includes teaching staffs, members of administration and non-contact employees. Masks on children are optional as well.  If a parent deems a mask is significant to the safety of their respective child(ren) they are encouraged to have their child(ren) wear a mask within the school.”

The amended protocols followed New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s announcement during a June 28 news conference, as well as the New Jersey Department of Public Health’s updated recommendations.

“Absent any dramatic change in our situation before the beginning of the school year, masking by students while in their school buildings will not be mandatory unless a school district requires masking as part of its own protocols,” Murphy said.

This announcement amended the earlier restrictions of Executive Order 175, released Aug. 13, 2020, which issued instructions and requirements for return to in-person learning for New Jersey schools.

Murphy made the announcement as the New Jersey Department of Health and New Jersey Department of Education announced updated health and safety guidelines for the upcoming school year, in which all districts will be required to provide full-time, in-person learning with no remote option.

“The recommendations we are releasing today will provide school districts with a roadmap to bring students and staff back to safe, enriching school environments,” Murphy said. “This guidance will help districts and educators develop plans to meet their student's educational, social, emotional and mental health needs.”

Dr. Schmidt left open the possibility of a return to masking by Catholic school communities if necessary.

“If a health situation, as determined by the local health department/authorities, arises for which the wearing of a mask is deemed essential for the school population or its employees to safely and effectively be engaged within the school community, then the wearing of a mask will be reintroduced.”

Schools statewide will follow guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control, which Murphy anticipates will be updated later in the summer.

More information about New Jersey’s updated COVID-19 guidance for schools can be found on covid19.nj.gov.