Will N.J. allow schools to reopen all-remote? Here’s what the governor has been saying.

Posted Aug 11, 2020

In late June, Gov. Phil Murphy unveiled a plan for the more than 2,500 public schools in New Jersey to reopen for in-person classes this fall despite the coronavirus pandemic, albeit with restrictions like masking and social distancing.

“The return to school will pose challenges, but we are confident that New Jersey’s school districts can move forward in a way that best serves the needs of their district while also achieving a safe environment for students and staff,” Murphy said while detailing the plan June 26.

And in the days after that, the governor said his “bias, hope, expectation” was for students to head back inside buildings. Currently, the state guidelines say all public schools districts are expected to offer some in-person classes.

But the landscape — and pressure — has changed in the nearly seven weeks since that announcement, with a growing number of local officials, educators, and union leaders pushing for Murphy to permit school districts to stay all-remote come fall.

Murphy’s responses about schools in recent weeks have also changed, going from lengthy comments supporting in-person learning to minimal remarks.

In mid-July, the governor left open the possibility of rolling back plans, saying “if we get close and if we see something, not just on any given day but a trend that is causing enormous concern, we’re not gonna put people’s health at risk.”

Days later, his administration announced it would allow districts to offer parents all-remote learning for their children, though districts would still be required to an in-person option.

On Monday, during his latest press briefing in Trenton, Murphy was asked if parents and educators should expect plans to change even more.

“No news to report on schools today,” the governor replied. “This is something that again, it’s health, keeping everybody healthy and safe, high-quality education, equity, giving parents in particular flexibility. Nothing new to report today. We take all the inputs from all the stakeholders very seriously, and there’s, as I said before, enormous passion on all sides of this.”

A schools-related announcement could come Wednesday. Murphy will hold his next press briefing at 1 p.m., and Kevin Dehmer, the state’s interim education commissioner, is scheduled to attend.

New Jersey’s nearly 600 school districts have been submitting reopening plans to the state Department of Education for approval.

This comes as some parents and President Donald Trump have been lobbying for classes to resume in person across the nation. Many argue that students don’t get the same education from online classes and many parents can’t be home because of work.

COVID-19, so far, has not had as major as impact on children compared to people who are older and have pre-existing conditions.

Still, opponents of returning to school say kids could pass the virus to teachers and administrators. They also argue it’s still unclear how the virus affects children

The school board in Elizabeth — New Jersey’s fourth-largest municipality — voted Monday to begin the school year with all-remote classes, despite the state’s guidelines, because 375 of its teachers have said they will not teach in person out of fear of contracting the virus. The Elizabeth plan would need to be approved by the state.

A Fairleigh Dickinson University poll released last month found New Jerseyans are divided on the issue. The survey found 46% of Garden State adults say schools should reopen with protective measures, while 42% say students should continue with remote learning until there is a COVID-19 treatment or vaccine.

The uncertainty comes as New Jersey, once a coronavirus hotspot, sees its numbers continue to trend in the right direction. On Tuesday, the state reported 14 deaths related to COVID-19 and 498 new cases, while the rate of transmission remained below the key benchmark of 1 for the second straight day. Those numbers are down significantly from the state’s peak in mid-April.

But Murphy on Monday said it’s still too risky to allow restaurants to reopen for indoor dining, saying the idea of people sitting without masks inside without strong ventilation is still an issue.

He also continued to urge residents to keep social distancing and wearing masks to make sure the numbers don’t spike again and help prevent more death.

“Please don’t get complacent,” the governor said. “The virus is out there.”

Do you like this post?

Be the first to comment