Will face masks be required?

Governor Murphy announced that as of March 7, 2022, that school districts across the state can make their own decisions regarding face coverings.

After discussing this with the Rutherford Board of Health, Rutherford Public Schools will move to a "mask-optional" status on March 7.

Anyone who feels more comfortable wearing a mask can continue to do so.

We will continue to carefully monitor the situation. If conditions warrant a change, we may have to require masks again in the future.

What principles apply to the use of masks in school?

The most effective fabrics for cloth masks are tightly woven such as cotton and cotton blends, breathable, and in two or three fabric layers. Masks with exhalation valves or vents, those that use loosely woven fabrics, and ones that do not fit properly are not recommended.

Masks should be washed after every day of use and/or before being used again, or if visibly soiled or damp/wet. Disposable face masks should be changed daily or when visibly soiled, damp or damaged. Students, teachers, and staff will have access to additional disposable or cloth masks in case a back-up mask is needed (e.g. mask is soiled or lost during the day).

Appropriate and consistent use of masks may be challenging for some individuals, however mask use is required for all individuals in indoor school settings with the following exceptions:

● When doing so would inhibit the individual’s health, such as when the individual is exposed to extreme heat indoors;

● When the individual has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a face covering without assistance;

● When a student’s documented medical condition or disability, as reflected in an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Educational Plan pursuant to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, precludes use of a face covering;

● When the individual is under two (2) years of age;

● When the individual is engaged in activity that cannot physically be performed while wearing a mask, such as eating or drinking, or playing a musical instrument that would be obstructed by a face covering;

● When the individual is engaged in high-intensity aerobic or anaerobic activity;

● When a student is participating in high-intensity physical activities during a physical education class in a well-ventilated location and able to maintain a physical distance of six feet from all other individuals; or

● When wearing a face covering creates an unsafe condition in which to operate equipment or execute a task.

Further information on mask-wearing in schools can be found here: Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools.

How will we accommodate students in classrooms and use other spaces to provide the recommended distance between them?

Social distancing protocols will be observed to the maximum extent possible, as called for by NJ Department of Health guidance. Each school building will leverage other spaces as needed to support social distancing guidelines. Due to physical constraints, there will be times where social distancing protocols cannot be observed.

How will the bathrooms and traffic through the buildings be monitored?

School personnel will monitor student traffic in the hallways. Access to bathrooms will be monitored, but there is no limit for usage. Custodial staff will service bathrooms more frequently according to our enhanced cleaning protocols.


What will morning entry procedures look like?

There will be no special entry procedures related to screening for students and staff. Each building will communicate entry procedures to facilitate social distancing to the maximum extent possible.

Is there a daily health questionnaire?

The NJDOH strongly encourages all individuals to monitor for signs of illness every morning before leaving for school. All individuals are encouraged to stay home when feeling sick -- no matter the symptoms or severity. There is “Daily Home Screening for Students” on the website. As always, please contact your healthcare provider and/or building nurse with any questions related to signs of illness.

Will students be permitted to use lockers?

Pierrepont, UMS and RHS students will be allowed to use their lockers if needed. Each building will communicate site-specific expectations for transitioning back to the use of lockers.


Is there a vaccine mandate for students?

At this time, there is no requirement for vaccination by either the State of New Jersey or the Rutherford School District. However, there are different quarantine requirements depending on vaccination status; please see those Q/As below.

Is there a vaccine mandate for staff?

The Governor has mandated a vaccine or weekly testing for all staff by October 18.

How will vaccination status impact contact tracing protocols?

Per the NJ Department of Health, fully vaccinated individuals will not be required to quarantine if they are identified as a close contact of someone who tests positive for COVID. Unvaccinated individuals will be required to quarantine in that situation. See the quarantine procedure Q/As below for further details.

Who is eligible for the COVID vaccine?

Currently, individuals 12 years and older are eligible to receive the COVID vaccine.


How will lunch be organized?

During lunch, each school will have protocols in place to help mitigate the spread of COVID. These strategies may include reducing the number of students in a space at one time while eating, staggering eating times to allow for greater physical distancing, and having students spaced out in assigned seats where available.

How will recess be managed?

All K-6 students will have recess time and have access to playground equipment. Social distancing will be maintained when feasible. RHS students will be permitted to leave campus during the lunch block. Students are not required to wear masks while outdoors for recess.


Will there be transportation for out of district students, vocational education students, field trips, and co-curricular activities?

The district will provide transportation to eligible students. However, all individuals who utilize district-owned or contracted buses are required to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status. The physical distance between students will be maximized as permitted by occupancy and windows will be opened to increase airflow whenever possible. High-touch surfaces on buses will be regularly cleaned.

In addition to face coverings and physical distancing, what other measures are in place to reduce the spread of illness?

● Schools will continue to be equipped with additional soap, hand sanitizer stations, and cleaning supplies. Schools will also continue to teach and reinforce the importance of respiratory etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes) and handwashing. All students will be routinely reminded and provided opportunities to wash and/or sanitize hands frequently during the school day.

● Schools will also ensure adequate supplies to reduce sharing of high-touch materials when feasible.

What kinds of facility enhancements will support the health and safety of the students and staff?

Custodial and maintenance staff will continue to clean and sanitize the school buildings on a daily basis with specialized equipment. As in the past, we will use enhanced cleaning and disinfecting protocols with devices that use a highly effective, all-natural, organic, non-toxic, non-irritant, environmentally and ecologically safe solution. Public health signage (i.e., importance of hand-washing, social distancing markers) will also remain in place. Schools will be equipped with additional soap, hand sanitizer stations, and cleaning supplies.


Is there a daily health questionnaire?

The NJDOH strongly encourages all individuals to monitor for signs of illness every morning before leaving for school. All individuals are encouraged to stay home when feeling sick -- no matter the symptoms or severity. There is “Daily Home Screening for Students” on the website. As always, please contact your healthcare provider and/or building nurse with any questions related to signs of illness.

What symptoms of illness should cause a student or staff member to stay home from school?

The NJ Department of Health strongly encourages individuals to monitor for signs of illness every day before leaving for school. Staff and students, regardless of vaccination status, should stay home when feeling ill, even if they do not suspect they have COVID.

The symptoms of COVID are varied and may present as another illness. We ask all stakeholders to review the current CDC list of COVID symptoms. Signs and symptoms of COVID may include fever (measured or subjective), chills, cough, nasal congestion, runny nose, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, diarrhea, nausea/vomiting, fatigue, headache, muscle or body aches, and new loss of taste or smell.

If my child has COVID symptoms or tests positive for COVID, how should I report this to the school when I note his/her absence?

Report confirmed and suspected COVID student cases to your child’s school nurse so that the district can carry out next steps, including reporting to local health officials and contact tracing. The district will protect the identity of a child during this process.

Following NJ Department of Health guidelines, the district will only provide contact information for the person(s) who tested positive for COVID to the local health department. The district will not release the name(s) of COVID-positive cases to the public.

What should I do if my child or a member of our family shows possible symptoms of COVID, and/or may have been exposed or tests positive for the virus?

● Per the NJDOH, regardless of vaccination status: If a student or staff member experiences COVID-compatible symptoms, he or she should isolate from others, be clinically evaluated for COVID, and undergo testing.

● Keep your child home if he or she is experiencing any COVID symptoms or was recently in close contact with an individual who is presumed positive or confirmed positive for COVID.

○ Ill individuals with COVID-compatible symptoms who have not been tested or individuals who tested positive for COVID should stay home until at least 10 days have passed since symptom onset and at least 24 hours have passed after resolution of fever without fever-reducing medications and improvement in symptoms.

○ Please note that an alternate diagnosis (including a positive strep test or influenza swab) without a negative COVID test does not change the protocol for return to school.

● Report confirmed and suspected COVID student cases to your child’s school nurse so that the district can carry out next steps, including reporting to local health officials and contact tracing, while protecting the identity of your child. People who test positive for COVID should stay home for 10 days from the positive test result.

● Contact your healthcare provider to determine if further evaluation or testing is needed.

● Do not allow your child to return to school between taking a COVID test and receiving results – even if he/she feels OK.

When might a student or staff member be isolated during the school day and sent home?

Staff and students are reminded to check for symptoms before leaving for school each day and to stay home when sick (i.e., fever, vomiting, diarrhea). For school settings, NJ Department of Health recommends that individuals with the following symptoms be promptly isolated from others and excluded from school:

● At least two of the following symptoms: fever (measure or subjective), chills, rigors (shivers), myalgia (muscle aches), headache, sore throat, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, congestion, or runny nose; OR

● At least one of the following symptoms: cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, new olfactory disorder, or new taste disorder.

What happens if there is a diagnosis of COVID in a school building?

● Students and staff with symptoms similar to COVID will be safely and respectfully isolated from others. Students will remain in isolation with continued supervision and care until picked up by an authorized adult.

● Building nurses will work with administrators and the Board of Health to immediately determine those students and staff who came in close contact with the individual positive (or presumed positive) for COVID.

● Following CDC guidelines, the contact tracing team will confidentially notify all exposed students (as well as their guardians) and staff, and set the quarantine timeframes.

● The district will closely follow the recommendations outlined by the NJ Department of Health’s COVID-19 Public Health Recommendations for Local Health Departments for K-12 Schools, which details multiple scenarios and appropriate responses for quarantining individuals, full classrooms or an entire school.

● The district will work closely with local health officials to report positive cases and to monitor trends in cases.

Who performs contact tracing?

School officials assist local health officials to conduct local contact tracing. After notification to local health officials, they may initiate and perform additional contact tracing.

What is the quarantine period for someone identified as a close contact?

The close contact quarantine period is based upon NJ Department of Health guidance.

● Unvaccinated close contacts of individuals who test positive for COVID must quarantine based on the Regional Risk Level:

○ High (orange): Exposed close contacts must quarantine 14 days from the last known exposure.

○ Moderate or Low (yellow or green): Exposed close contacts must quarantine for 10 days from the last known exposure. The quarantine may be shortened to 7 days if a negative test is produced that was collected between 5 and 7 days of exposure. Either a rapid or PCR test is acceptable.

● Fully vaccinated individuals do not need to quarantine if they were a close contact as long as they remain asymptomatic.

● Individuals who clinically recovered from COVID do not need to quarantine if the exposure occurs within 90 days of recovery.

● Secondary contacts continue to have no restrictions but should monitor and report any symptoms that may develop.

How will non-COVID-related medical issues be handled?

The school nurse will support students with non-COVID related medical issues as in any other school year.

Are there travel quarantine requirements for students and staff?

As of May 17, 2021, New Jersey's travel advisory is no longer in effect. At this time, students and staff members returning to New Jersey after travel will not be asked to quarantine, regardless of vaccination status. However, individuals are advised to reference CDC recommendations and contact travel providers for testing requirements before or after domestic or international travel.


If my child requires quarantine, will he/she be able to participate in remote instruction?

At this time, the district is not offering remote instruction. Students will be given asynchronous work. However, if an entire class or building is quarantined, we will adjust. We will continue to monitor the situation.

What schedule will students follow?

ALL students will have full-time, in-person instruction beginning in September 2021. Students will follow a regular, full-day schedule that includes all core content areas, specials/electives, lunch, and instrumental classes. Support services will continue to be provided and will be built into the student’s daily schedule.

Will a virtual option still be available for students who might not want to come in person?

No. As per the New Jersey Department of Education and Governor Murphy, there is no remote instruction option.


Will there be co-curricular activities?

The District will have co-curricular activities, and individual schools will share information about them.

Will there be field trips?

Field trips will return as long as they are essential to the learning activity.

Will students participate in athletics?

Students can participate in athletic activities, as the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) resumed regular operations effective July 1, 2021.

Will there be a separate COVID screening for athletes?

There will not be a special screening procedure for athletes.

Will there be transportation to and from athletic events?

Transportation to athletic contests will be provided, but social distancing cannot be guaranteed. Coaches will be expected to travel on buses with student-athletes anytime buses are provided. As per NJ mandate, ALL coaches and student athletes on the bus MUST wear a mask.

Will spectators be allowed at athletic events?

Spectator attendance will be permitted at athletic events.

What protocols will be in place during Fine Arts classes, such as music?

All Fine Arts classes will continue to have in-person instruction, including instrumental lessons and ensemble rehearsals at all schools. Both indoor and outdoor performance options will continue to be explored throughout the year. Masks are required during all indoor settings, and social distancing will be observed to the maximum extent possible. Masks can be removed when playing an instrument.


What resources and supports will be available this year to continually support student and staff mental health?

The administration and staff will continue to be available to assist individuals and families in need of referrals for mental health assessments and treatment. Beyond our qualified guidance counselors, school social workers, school psychologists and other staff, the district maintains a contract with NJ Care Plus to support additional needs five days per week. Ongoing check-ins with students/staff currently identified as struggling will continue throughout the school year. Trained staff are ready to assist. Please contact your school’s principal for more information or to express a concern.

How will we continue to support students with special needs?

If a student who has a current 504 plan is having difficulty, please contact the student’s guidance counselor and the office of the building principal. If a student with an IEP is having difficulty, please contact the student’s case manager.

The District Reopening Plan is an ongoing process and subject to change as directed by the New Jersey Department of Education or as dictated by changing circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic.