Murphy will let NJ parents keep kids home this school year
New Jersey will allow parents who don't feel safe returning their children to school to instead opt for all-remote learning in the coming school year, Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday.
The latest guidelines from Murphy's administration expect all school districts to offer at least some in-person instruction in the coming school year. Districts must submit their plans for re-opening to the stat within the next few weeks.
Under the state's "The Road Plan" planning document, districts are expected to take steps to allow for social distancing both in school and on school-provided transportation. They must institute screening and have response plans for students or staff who appear ill.
But the guidance doesn't specify a minimum amount of days students must be physically in school. Districts throughout the state have been working on measures that call for a combination of in-person and remote learning, often with students each in school for a few days a week on a rotation with their peers.
After Murphy shut down in-person learning March in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, many districts struggled to bridge their "digital divide" — making sure students had the computers and internet access needed to keep up with learning.
Murphy last week announced $54 million in funding to help schools purchase more equipment, but said it would likely take at least twice that to bridge the gap.
The Murphy administration is currently requiring all schools to offer some in-person classes, but it has not set a minimum number of days students must be in school.
Murphy said Monday the state Department of Education would announce more details on its plans to allow all-remote learning by the end of the week.
Returning students to schools, he said, is about as complex a step as we will take, or any American state will take."
Murphy also planned to sign an executive order Monday allowing contact drills, competitions and practices for high-risk sports to resume outdoors — potentially making it possible for sports including football, rugby, marital arts and cheerleading to begin again. However, those activities would still be subject to guidance and restrictions from athletics associations.
A Fairleigh Dickinson University poll last week found parents were split on whether to return students to school. Forty-six percent of adults said schools should reopen with protective measures in place, but 42% support a return to online learning until a COVID-19 treatment or vaccine becomes available.
“Once you account for the margin of error, people are pretty deadlocked on this issue, which is not surprising since I think everyone is struggling with what to do with the schools,” Krista Jenkins, professor of politics and government and director of the FDU Poll, told New Jersey 101.5. “Certainly no consensus in New Jersey.”