Township Students To Continue Wearing Masks Indoors For Time Being

Schools Superintendent John Ravally said February 24 that township students will have to wear masks indoors until Somerset County’s Covid-19 activity decreases.

Township students “are expected” to continue wearing masks when indoors, at least until the county’s Covid-19 activity level drops to its lowest possible level.

The school district administration is also recommending that students continue wearing masks on school buses, schools Superintendent John Ravally said at the February 24 Board of Education meeting.

Gov. Phil Murphy announced on February 9 that he would lift his mandate requiring masks to be worn in schools – in effect since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic – on March 7. He is leaving it up to individual school districts and private schools to determine if they want to continue with the the mandate themselves.

Ravally said that the state Department of Health on February 23 released guidance on the governor’s announcement, which was that districts should consult with local Boards of Health when determining how they will proceed with mask wearing.

The primary driver of the decision to mask or not to mask is the county Covid-19 Activity Level Index (CALI) score, Ravally said.

There are four levels of scores – 1, 2, 3 and 4 – represented respectively by the colors green, yellow, orange and red.

Somerset County is currently in the “yellow” zone.

“The recommendation for our schools is to wait for the Somerset County CALI score to move to a value of 1, otherwise known as green status, before relaxing the indoor universal mask requirement,” Ravally said.

“This means … students and staff are expected to remain masked for now, and each week administrators will review the weekly Somerset County Covid-19 report and react accordingly,” he said.

Ravally said that the state DOH guidance says that schools located in counties in yellow or green status do not have to require mask wearing indorrs, except that in yellow zones, students grouped toggether must be masked.

“In consultation with our local health department, we in Franklin are recommending a more conservative approach, and are recommending we stay masked until our county is designated green, with a promise to re-visit post-Spring break,” Ravally said. “The reason we would do that is because we will be returning to practices that will allow us to have more outside, we’ll be returning at the high school to lunch in the courtyard for certain kids and opportunities for kids to eat outside at the middle schools.”

“For now, we’re saying, OK, if we’re green, transmission is not as likely and the risk is much lower and that seems to be a good time to return to some kind of normal operation in our schools, but any time we might bounce back … then we will return to universal indoor masking after consultation with the health department,” he said.

Ravally said the guidance gives a district leeway to require indoor masking by class, grade, school or group of schools if the circumstances warrant it.

Students in the elementary and middle school grades returning to school for days six to 10 of their quarantine will have to wear masks indoors, he said.

High school students will have to stay home all 10 days of their quarantine, he said.

AT least one resident questioned the new recommendations.

Former school board member Rob Trautmann said he did not understand what the District was doing.

“You’re not really changing anything,” he said. “We’ve lived for two years in yellow. All the scientists I’ve heard say we have to learn to live with this.”

“The last time there was a week we were in the green was in October 2020,” Trautmann said. “This seems like a feel-good change.”

“I think everybody wants a more normal school environment, but we want to do it in such a way that we ensure we don’t have to quarantine a lot of students,” Ravally said.

Your Thoughts


Please Support Independent Journalism In Franklin Township!

No other media outlet covering Franklin Township brings you the depth of information presented by the Franklin Reporter & Advocate. Period. We are the only truly independent media serving the Eight Villages.

But we can only do that with your support. Please consider a yearly subscription to our online news site; at $37 a year, it’s one of the best investments you can make in our community.

To subscribe, please click here.

Other News From The Eight Villages …