N.J. students, teachers with health issues will have virtual school option this fall, Murphy clarifies

Posted Mar 30, 2021

Gov. Phil Murphy said last week that after more than a year of upheaval because of the coronavirus pandemic, all New Jersey schools are expected to return to in-person classes when the next academic year starts and won’t be allowed to offer virtual learning, even if parents ask for it.

But Murphy clarified Tuesday that students and teachers who have health issues that could put them at greater risk of a serious COVID-19 case will have a virtual option.

“I did not intend to include folks who have some immunity or some other issue with their health where that could put them at risk,” the governor said during a television interview on News 12 New Jersey. “I did not mean that.”

“But I did mean that Monday through Friday, schools are open for business, and unless you’ve got some sort of health challenge of one sort or the other, we fully expect we’re in business for school,” he added.

Murphy said he didn’t know what the setup would look like, noting it it will be up to districts to determine who would be allowed to participate in virtual learning and how.

The governor made his initial comments last Wednesday during a COVID-19 briefing. He was asked if districts would be allowed to preserve the option of virtual learning even if districts are required to offer full in-person instruction.

“As we’re sitting here now, no,” Murphy said. “I want to unequivocal about this. We are expecting Monday through Friday, in-person, every school, every district. Obviously, if the world goes sideways, we have to revisit that. But as of this sitting, the answer is no.”

Murphy also announced last week that most schools in New Jersey can move classroom desks three feet apart, instead of six feet, under new social distancing guidance issued by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that said it was safe for students to be closer together at school if they continue to wear masks and follow other social distancing guidelines to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

As of last week, 143 districts in New Jersey with about 97,000 students are open for all in-person instruction. In addition, 534 districts with more than 833,000 students are open for hybrid instruction. Another 44 districts with 121,600 students are in a mix of in-person, hybrid, or all-remote learning, while 90 districts with 302,000 students remain all remote.

New Jersey has reported 205 in-school coronavirus outbreaks, which have resulted in 947 cases among students, teachers, and school staff this academic year, according to the state’s dashboard.

The state defines school outbreaks as cases where contact tracers determined two or more students or school staff caught or transmitted COVID-19 in the classroom or during academic activities at school. Those numbers do not include students or staff believed to have been infected outside school or cases that can’t be confirmed as in-school outbreaks.

New Jersey is once again seeing an uptick in daily COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations as officials warn about variants spreading. The state on Tuesday reported another 4,378 confirmed cases and 61 additional confirmed deaths, while there were 2,329 coronavirus patients across the state’s hospitals as of Monday night — the most since Feb. 15.

The state’s seven-day average for newly confirmed cases is 3,783, up 11.6% from a week ago and 31.2% from a month ago.

“We’re at a pretty critical moment,” Murphy said during Tuesday’s interview.

Meanwhile, New Jersey health facilities and vaccine centers have now administered slightly more than 4.11 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine since the state’s first shot was given Dec. 15. That includes about 2.67 million people with at least one dose and 1.5 million people considered fully vaccinated, according to state data.

“It’s a race between these vaccines and the variants,” Murphy said.

But the governor stressed the state will likely be in a much better place come the summer, with millions of people vaccinated and the weather warmer.

“I still think by Memorial Day we’re in a whole different ballgame,” he said.

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-03-31 02:24:43 -0700