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NEW JERSEY — As New Jersey unveiled school reopening guidance on Friday, Gov. Phil Murphy said he has “every expectation” that kids will return to schools come September.

The guidance comes with the requirement that the state’s public schools will open in some capacity with the health of students, their families, and educators being the “top priority,” according to the governor.

Where it can be done, overall class sizes should be limited to reach the standards of social distancing, according to Murphy.

For larger districts, the state is providing the flexibility to rearrange schedules to allow for grouping of students, or by implementing hybrid learning environments.

Districts must prepare to switch to remote learning “at any time,” Murphy said. School officials must also make an effort to ensure social distancing will be practiced throughout the day including cafeterias and banning enclosed groups.

Proper social distancing practiced must be followed at all times. Face coverings will be required unless doing so would inhibit the individual’s health or the individual is under two years of age. Students are also strongly encouraged to wear face coverings and are required to do so when social distancing cannot be maintained, unless doing so would inhibit the student’s health. All schools will also work with their custodial staff for proper building sanitizing and cleaning on a daily basis.

The governor said the guidance set up “started with listening” as the state had been in contact with educators and stakeholders about concerns and what can be done for the upcoming school year.

Officials listened to about 50 education and community organizations, over 300 school superintendents and surveyed more than 300,000 parents and guardians to come up with the plans.

Four principles reopening guidance must be followed:

  • Ensuring conducive and learning atmosphere
  • Supporting education leaders with planning
  • Providing policy guidance and necessary funding to schools
  • Securing continuing of learning

However, Murphy also acknowledged that there is “no one-size-fits-all approach” when it comes to school reopenings because there are differences which exist among schools and education communities, including geographic, demographic and economic factors.

Guidance outlines standards every school should expect to be conditional for reopening, it also comes with the flexibility that individual districts will need to ensure an effective implementation strategy that meets their unique needs.

In addition, the Department of Education released “Conditions for Learning” which involve the social, emotional and environmental factors that can impact educator capacity to teach and student capacity to learn.

  • Districts must organize and prepare for the next school year, acknowledging the potential trauma that staff and students faced during COVID-19 school closures.
  • Districts should seek to actively include families and students in the decision-making process, teams and meetings regarding interventions and supports.
  • Students and staff need to feel cared for, reengaged and acclimated to the school community, so schools can deliver instruction most effectively.
  • Provide professional development to support educators’ integration of SEL in their teaching, including the skills to foster positive learning environments and techniques for embedding SEL into in-person or virtual instruction.

For a full report of guidelines, click here.

Murphy teased Thursday that plans would be released the following day, adding “this guidance has been in the works for weeks.”

He also told the PIX11 Morning News he was “confident we’ll be back in school when we open up again in late August.”

Schools in New Jersey have been closed since March 18 in an attempt to reduce the spread of the virus.

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio said schools are expected to resume on Sept. 10 and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza laid out a tentative framework for the fall, which includes blended learning.

On Friday, the mayor said the city and school officials are working on plans to get the maximum number of children back to school safely.