Murphy: Masks likely in schools this fall

Gov. Phil Murphy said he is pleased with the progress to vaccinate children, but he said schools likely will have some sort of masking and other health safety protocols this fall due to the current limits of the program.

Children under 12 are not eligible to be vaccinated. Murphy acknowledged that parents of those children have a right to be concerned.

“I would suspect we’ll continue with some of the public health protocols inside the classroom and inside the school buildings to try to mitigate the concern,” he said. “The concern is a legitimate one.”

Murphy, speaking Tuesday morning on “Morning Joe” on MSNBC, said he thinks a vaccine for those under 12 may be available soon.

“I do think, based on what we’re hearing, we will ultimately get vaccines that go south of 12-year-olds, which will be a huge step, (but) perhaps not by September,” he said. “So, we’ll continue to keep a fair amount of the steps we’ve got in place I would suspect in the fall.”

Murphy did not specify if he felt mask requirements would be different for different grades or ages.

Earlier this month, Murphy said the all-remote option will not be available next fall — and that schools must reopen. He said he expects the state to release more guidance on the fall reopening.

Murphy also noted concerns about students who have fallen behind this school year.

“It is a big challenge for us, as it is for any state — and it’s a particular importance for us because we have the No. 1-rated public education system in America; we view that as a crown jewel in our state,” he said.

Murphy said the state has used a large portion of the federal money it has received to fund programs that deal with learning loss, as well as those that will provide summer learning.

“Not that money or resources is the only answer, but I think the budget does speak of priorities — and this is a big one,” he said. “Learning loss is real. In some cases, it’s enormous. It’s an equity issue. The loss is steeper in Black and brown communities than on average in our state. And we’ll do everything we can to get our kids back up to par.”