Governor Phil Murphy is again warning schools and school districts not to try and get around his mask mandate as kids return to class next week.

"Our in-school masking policy is not a polite suggestion," Murphy told reporters at his latest COVID briefing, "We do not, and will not, take lightly any school or district that tries to finagle their way out of their responsibility for protecting public health."

When the Middletown School Board was preparing to make it easier for parents to opt out of the masking policy, the governor's office called the board attorney and warned if they did so, the state would immediately take them to court. The board ultimately complied with Murphy's mandate. A similar situation played out in Wayne.

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In Chatham, angry parents packed the school board meeting hoping to convince the board to go against the mask mandate. They did not. The board president told parents to take any complaints "to Trenton."

It's not exactly clear what will happen as classes begin after Labor Day in terms of defiance. Some school districts may see a large number of children reporting to classes without a mask. That issue was raised on our recent Back to School Town Hall broadcast.

At least initially, students will be given a mask if they show up without one. Murphy announced Monday that his administration was making 500,000 child-size masks available to school districts. State education officials have been unclear about what happens if a student repeatedly fails to comply with the mask mandate.

Even with the start of school just days away, some districts are just now approving COVID guidelines to govern how health and safety protocols will be handled. In Chatham, angry parents tried to persuade the school board to go against the mask mandate, but to no avail. The board president told them to complain "to Trenton," because their hands were tied.

Murphy has sought to leave no ambiguity about his determination to have everyone masked up in school. "This is the time for selflessness," Murphy said Monday, "Putting our schools on the best possible footing, with regard to providing full-time in-person instruction and protecting public health, period."

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