Arts Ed NJ Releases ‘March Forward Spring 2022 Guidance For Arts Education’

Arts Ed NJ, the performing arts affiliate of the National Association of State High School Associations (NFHS), has suspended mitigation guidelines for schools designated as “mask optional” effective March 7, 2022.

The announcement coincides with the all-new March Forward Spring 2022 Guide for Arts Education (, which provides the most up-to-date policy guide for administrators, K-12 arts educators Grade 12 and the community. as a whole to ensure students can participate in arts education programs safely and effectively as schools return to pre-pandemic standards.

This update follows the February 7, 2022 announcement by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy ( to lift the mandate of the universal school mask for all students, educators, staff, and visitors beginning March 7, 2022, as well as the February 25, 2022 announcement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) relaxing mask recommendations (https: //

Arts Ed NJ’s latest update includes:

1. No mitigation requirements for “hidden optional schools”.

2. For schools requiring a mask, Arts Ed NJ reinforces previous recommendations for indoor performing arts, including:

· Masks made of suitable material should be worn; however, wind players must hide their instruments when playing. This allows them to remove their face masks only during the performance. Social distancing of three feet is also recommended “when possible”.

· In well-ventilated spaces, indoor rehearsal time should be limited to 50 minutes, followed by an air exchange before resuming. If there are spaces with higher air change rates, teachers can consider longer rehearsal times.

· Appropriate hygienic ventilation strategies should be a priority at all times.

3. There is no outdoor attenuation requirement for any school.

While Arts Ed NJ is careful to note that its recommendations are subject to change based on the latest CDC and New Jersey Department of Health requirements, the organization believes that when these recommendations are followed, the arts classroom is as safe as any other classroom. Additionally, students will benefit the most if schools refrain from adding unnecessary barriers to learning dance, music, drama, or visual arts in person.

“We are excited to see our schools begin to return to pre-pandemic operations across all educational programs, including visual and performing arts,” said Bob Morrison, director of Arts Ed NJ. “We hope this new phase will bring some normalcy back to our students as they engage in these arts programs without restrictions”

Arts Ed NJ urges policymakers to allow a return to pre-pandemic standards for dance, music, theater and visual arts. Studies have shown the importance of these disciplines in providing a comprehensive education. Arts education is vital because it combines intellectual challenges with social-emotional learning, essential for student development. To move forward, students need to be able to interpret their world and express their emotions, which is more important than ever.

But while all subjects have suffered from COVID over the past two years, arts education has perhaps been the hardest hit. Isolating students from classmates and teachers negates the unique benefits of arts education – the peer-to-peer learning that comes from shared experience; a teacher’s ability to work with students on multiple levels and to serve as role models for students; tools for learning how subjective judgment plays a role in everyday life; a safe space to explore gray areas that are overlooked in areas where standardized testing frustrates creative thinking; even the simple joy of creating something new.

“March Forward 2022 underscores the importance of studying dance, music, theater and the visual arts collectively and in person. Our data shows that students missed creating together uninhibited,” Morrison said. “We also believe that engaging with the community, whether by organizing field trips or bringing artists into the classroom, is both beneficial and motivating for students.”

The recommendations presented in March Forward 2022 build on work that began in 2020 with a task force of more than 100 of the state’s leading arts educators and stakeholders, who met regularly throughout the year. school year and beyond to understand the challenges facing students and teachers during the COVID era.

With its March Forward 2022 guidelines, Arts Ed NJ urges school districts to provide teachers with the professional development and classroom resources and equipment they will need to meet the specific needs of their programs and students, citing eight key points:

Sequential arts education must return for all students in all education models: New Jersey Student Learning Standards in the Visual and Performing Arts were affirmed in 2020 and continue to be a requirement for all learning methods.

Arts education programs will need the right staff and support to ensure continuity of education. This includes maintaining certified arts educators to provide sequential instruction while providing them with the necessary materials, resources, and equipment to meet health and safety requirements.

Arts educators and administrators should be part of district planning. No group has spent more time studying the challenges and solutions of teaching the arts in the age of COVID than arts educators. Their collective knowledge will be a critical asset for school administrations and school board members as they begin to return to pre-pandemic norms.

Schools should prioritize making and creating the arts together. Students identified wasting time making art together as the thing they missed the most when forced to study remotely. When students are in school, the focus should be on creating artistic works together.

The social and emotional learning needs of students, faculty and staff must be considered in all aspects of teaching. Arts education plays a critical role in supporting students’ social and emotional needs, which the New Jersey Guide to Accelerated Learning recognizes as important factors for effective education by influencing teachers’ ability to teach and the ability students to learn.

Schools Must Address Learning Delays and Disruptions in the Arts: As with other subject areas identified in the NJ Department of Education’s Accelerated Learning Guide, resources must be provided to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the visual and performing arts, including those available from state and federal government.

Professional development must be provided: To most effectively meet the challenges of the re-emergence of the pandemic, arts educators must have the opportunity and resources to engage in professional development relevant to their respective fields.

Resources from the New Jersey cultural community should be used for educational support. From assemblage programs and field trips to artist residencies and collaborative projects, New Jersey’s rich community of artists and cultural organizations play a vital role in the education of our students. As schools reopen, they should seek appropriate opportunities to connect students with artists and art in the wider community.

“An arts classroom is a classroom, period,” Morrison said. “Sequential arts education is part of New Jersey’s learning expectations for all students and should be maintained.”

For more information on March Forward Spring 2022 Guidance for Arts Education, visit

About Madeline J. Carter

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