Dr. Lydia Furnari, Verona’s interim superintendent of schools, sent out an email this afternoon announcing that, as of Monday, March 7, Verona Public Schools will implement a “mask optional” policy.
Two days ago, Gov. Phil Murphy announced that he would rescind the statewide mask mandate for schools and childcare centers on that day, citing a downward trend in COVID-19 cases and rising vaccination rates. But the New Jersey Department of Health has yet to issue guidance on the mask reversal and social distancing, or what might cause the reversal to be reversed, prompting caution on the part of officials in Verona.
“Every decision we make is based on our understanding of the needs of our students and staff whether they relate to their education, their social-emotional, mental or physical health,” Dr. Furnari wrote. “A mask optional approach relies heavily on each person’s daily decisions. As such the District will continue to provide staff and students with a mask if they forget their own and still want to wear one. We ask that each person’s choice with regard to mask wearing is treated respectfully by all members of our school community.”
The school district’s COVID dashboard shows that positive cases have fallen sharply since the omicron variant peaked in January. As of today, there are only 14 positive cases where the individual was in school during the transmission period and nine where the individual was not in school. The case rate for the town as a whole is also significantly lower, with just 50 new cases since the start of February. During last month’s surge there were sometimes that many new positives reported in a single day.
Dr. Furnari said the district will also be moving to more in-person events and that student field trips are being planned.
“I understand that there will be many questions concerning these changes,” Furnari said. “I expect that a number of them will be answered as we interpret the NJDOH guidance and share its implications for our District. Additionally, we will be posting Frequently Asked Questions by topic on our District website. One of these FAQs will be specific to changes to our COVID-19 protocols. I encourage you to continue to communicate with your child’s school and with me. We truly appreciate your partnership and support.”