Reopening New Jersey: Murphy clears schools to reopen, allows remote learning amid teacher shortage

Thursday, August 13, 2020
NJ clears schools to reopen, allows remote learning
New Jersey public and nonpublic pre-K through 12 schools and colleges and universities have been cleared to reopen for the upcoming academic year, Governor Murphy has announced.

JERSEY CITY, New Jersey (WABC) -- New Jersey public and nonpublic pre-K through 12 schools and colleges and universities have been cleared to reopen for the upcoming academic year, Governor Murphy has announced. Schools may also opt for remote learning.

Murphy said each of the 600 school districts, public and non-public schools, must certify that they can meet the New Jersey Department of Education's health and safety standards of students and staff in order for in-person instruction to resume.

School districts that cannot meet all health and safety standards for safe in-person instruction will begin their school year with all-remote learning.

Public school districts must show:

Plans for satisfying these standards

Anticipated date to resume in-person instruction

Colleges and universities can resume in-person instruction as long as social distancing and other protections are followed. Any student who chooses to continue remote learning must be accommodated, Murphy said.

Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said the state has been divided into six regions which are similar to how flu surveillance is monitored. The statewide approach will have a regional and focus "to be responsive to the local characteristics of school participation."

"The regions are the Northwest: Mars to say Sussex and Warren -- Northeast: Bergen, Essex, and Hudson -- Central: West Hunterdon, Mercer and Somerset -- Central East: Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean and Union -- Southwest: Camden, Gloucester, Burlington and Salem -- in the Southeast: Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland," Persichilli said.

She explained that this system will provide a guide as the state works to mitigate COVID-19.

"Now depending on the community risk, and transmission, there are, there will be four color-coded categories, green, yellow, orange and red," Persichilli said. "Where a region falls in the color coding categories is based on three criteria that are scored numerically, and updated weekly."

Those criteria include the number of cases in the past week, the percent positivity in the last week and syndromic surveillance.

"The risk assessment provides guidance for the local health department's risk levels, green, yellow and orange require staff and students to stay home when they're sick, or if they have been in close contact with someone with COVID in the past 14 days and school administrators should be notified of that illness," Persichilli explained.

The announcement comes after three school districts said they would start the academic year with 100% remote learning due to a teacher shortage after hundreds of educators said they would not return to the classroom.

Derick Waller has more on the controversy in New Jersey.

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Jersey City, Bayonne and Elizabeth submitted school reopening plans to the state with no in-person classes, bowing to pressure from teacher unions and saying they are unable to reopen with in-person learning safely.

The current requirement is for school districts to offer at least some in-person classes.

In Elizabeth, officials say 375 teachers told them they were not willing to teach in person citing concerns about the spread of coronavirus.

"This affects in the negative way the most, the youngest, the kindergarten, the pre-school, the first-graders, they have to learn remotely," Elizabeth Mayor J. Christian Bollwage said. "That's a challenge."

Many parents were also angered by the decision, but others were comfortable continuing remote instruction.

"I think they should be able to do it pretty good, based on the fact that they ended the school year in that mode," one parent said.

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On Wednesday, Dr. Richard Bozza, executive director of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators; Patricia Wright, executive director of the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association; and Marie Blistan, president of the New Jersey Education Association, issued a statement calling on Murphy and the New Jersey Department of Education to direct all New Jersey public schools to open remotely this fall.

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