Even as the number of positive COVID-19 cases in New Jersey keeps climbing during the second wave, 423 schools are offering a mix of in-person and remote instruction, and 87 schools are fully open for in-person instruction.

Over the past few months, the average daily number of new coronavirus cases in has doubled. But since the start of the school year, there have only been 388 confirmed in-school COVID cases in students, teachers and staff.

Part of the reason for the relatively low number of infections in schools is everybody is following the rules, social distancing and wearing a mask.

Janet Bamford, a spokeswoman for the New Jersey School Boards Association said the state Department of Health recently began distributing 2.4 million cloth face coverings to schools.

“We think it’s vitally important for schools to get the kind of assistance they need and this will be an ongoing need throughout the 20-21 school year," she said.

The washable masks are being distributed based with priority on districts with more students on free and reduced-priced lunch.

She said providing assistance for PPE and other supplies to all schools to fight the pandemic remains a top priority in New Jersey because it’s estimated that schools will spend close to $500 per student on masks, sanitizing supplies, thermometers, additional custodial staff and other expenses.

Lawmakers are considering legislation to make it easier for districts to buy supplies at reduced prices through cooperative purchasing agreements. 

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