To Our School Board Community: First, Happy New Year (we think)!! Though we hoped this year would start without Executive Orders, last minute guidance, and unclear recommendations, it seems that’s not going to be our reality. Second, we are still working on all of the new information and guidance, so everyone should try and remain patient and flexible – as we like to say, let’s “wind our watches” and think through where we are headed.
As you probably already know, on January 11, 2022, Governor Murphy issued Executive Order 280, which created a new Public Health Emergency. Governor Murphy also issued Executive Order 281 which expressly extends the provisions contained in Executive Orders 251 and 253, which mandate the wearing of masks, and either vaccination or testing of school staff respectively. Notably, the Executive Order States:
3. The administrative orders, directives, and waivers issued by any Executive Branch departments and agencies in whole or in part based on the authority under the EHPA to respond to the previously declared Public Health Emergency presented by the COVID-19 outbreak that are provided in the Appendix to this Order shall remain in full force and effect unless otherwise modified or revoked by the Executive Branch department or agency. While this paragraph seems contrary to the language and spirit of P.L. 2021, c. 103, and its “sun setting provisions,” the referenced appendix is attached for your review. At this time schools should continue to require their staff and students wear masks, and should continue to test their unvaccinated staff members as required.
In addition to the above referenced Executive Orders, our office is still reviewing the January 10, 2022 updated “Guidance” from the NJDOH. Though we are aware the guidance suggests that a District in an area with a very high transmission rate should test their staff twice a week, we note that the document does not say a District must, and E.O. 253 does not contain that provision. Initially, we suggest contacting your testing provider to ascertain whether twice weekly testing is even a feasible option, and what the time, human capital, and costs associated with any possible change in operations.
Our e-mails about recent developments are not intended to substitute for our legal advice to our clients based on your specific needs or requests. In addition, our guidance is subject to, and can be superseded by new laws, rules, regulations, or orders. Moreover, some directives from the Federal and State authorities can appear, and can be, contradictory or in conflict, so please contact us for assistance. As always, please contact us with any questions. We will continue to do our best to keep you updated in the coming days and weeks.