All students and staff will be required to wear masks when public schools in Princeton kick off new academic year Sept. 9

Students and staff members in the Princeton Public Schools will be required to wear masks while at school and when riding school buses, district officials announced on Thursday.

The first day of school, which will be in person this fall for all public schools in the district, is Sept. 9. Remote instruction will only be available to students who are required to quarantine after they’ve been exposed to COVID-19.

Masks must be worn regardless of vaccination status, district officials said. Bus drivers will be encouraged to open windows so that outdoor air will circulate on the buses. Students will be assigned seats on buses, and students in the same family will be grouped together while riding the bus. Daily health screenings for students and staff will still be conducted. District officials are not requiring vaccinations, but are encouraging everyone who is eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine if they haven’t already.

Other precautions that will be in place when school starts include practicing social distancing of at least three feet where possible, placing elementary school students in cohorts where possible, and monitoring and reinforcing handwashing and the covering of coughs and sneezes.

Some events like recess and snack time will be held in tents outdoors when possible. Custodians will regularly disinfect high-touch surfaces in addition to performing their regular cleaning duties.

Contact tracing, in combination with isolation and quarantine, will be used by the local public health department to prevent the spread of COVID-19. All public schools in Princeton will use seating charts for students to support contact tracing efforts. The process includes identifying people who have a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19 as well as people they came in contact with. People with COVID-19 and their close contacts will be asked to isolate and quarantine at home. School nurses may help the local health department with contact tracing. District officials said the local health department is the final authority when it comes to identifying close contacts and determining who must be quarantined and for how long.

Visitors and large gatherings inside school buildings will be limited for the start of the school year, officials said.

All field trips will remain virtual at least through the fall, district officials said. At the start of the school year, students will not have access to hallway lockers or gym locker rooms. District officials will revisit this strategy later in the school year, in consultation with school principals and health officials.

During lunch, students will be required to maintain six feet of distance from others. Schools will use seating charts to support contact tracing. Students will remove masks to eat lunch. School lunch will be available each day and is available to all students at no charge.

The Princeton Public Schools will follow the direction of the state regarding travel restrictions and quarantine requirements.

District decisions will be evaluated again as advice from federal and state health officials continues to evolve.