New Jersey schools to remain closed for remainder of academic year, Murphy says


School classroom with blackboard

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NEW JERSEY — New Jersey schools and colleges will remain closed for the remainder of the academic year as the state continues to battle the COVID-19 outbreak, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday.

“ALL SCHOOLS WILL REMAIN CLOSED for in-person instruction for the remainder of the school year – to protect the health of our children, our educators, and their families. Guided by safety and science, this is the best course of action,” the governor said in a tweet.

“I had hoped that we can get back to a sense of normal,” Murphy said during his daily press conference, but “the reality is we cannot safely reopen our schools to provide students and families and faculty or staff the confidence needed to allow for a return to in-person instruction.”

Murphy first ordered all public and private schools to close mid-March and extended the closure, while giving hope that part of the year could be salvaged.

Schools have since been conducting classes through remote learning.

DOE Commissioner Lamont Repollet said he is dedicating resources at his disposal to give educators information needed to continue remote learning as well as looking at how schools will work in the future.

The decision only applies to the 2019-20 regular academic year. The Department of Education will lead stakeholder meetings on potential summer programs and the reopening of buildings for the 2020-21 academic year.

Murphy added that day care facilities will continue to follow his executive order, which he mandated facilities certify with the state that they will only provide services to the children of essential workers.

In a statement, New Jersey Education Association President Maria Blistan commended Murphy for deciding to keep schools closed.

While we are saddened to know that we won’t have the opportunity to see our students in our school buildings again this year, nothing is more important than the health and safety of everyone in our public schools. NJEA members will continue to do all we can to provide our students the best education and support possible under these very difficult circumstances, for as long as it takes to keep everyone safer in this pandemic.

“We know this is an educational loss for students. The very best remote education is no substitute for the in-person instruction and peer interaction that helps our students learn and thrive. That loss is even greater for students who lack the resources to take full advantage of the online tools that are so important now. The decision to extend this closure through the remainder of the school year makes it even more imperative that districts address those inequities and do everything possible to overcome them.

“Part of our state’s long-term recovery from this pandemic must include a commitment to help our students, and particularly our most vulnerable students, recover what has been lost by closing school buildings. We know that NJEA members, who have done such a great job of helping students navigate this current challenge, are committed to doing that. Together, we will be even stronger, more successful and more resilient once our school communities have the opportunity to be together again.”

The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) has advised against the resumption of spring sports due to a lack of testing, viable testing and a lack of a vaccine.

The state has applied for $310 million in federal education assistance, including $280 million to help the district cover costs, including sanitizing and cleaning as well as ensuring student support services.

Meanwhile in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced schools and colleges will remain closed for the rest of the academic year.

As of Sunday, there are over 126,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New Jersey, with nearly 8,000 deaths.

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