On April 16, Gov. Phil Murphy extended the school closures in New Jersey until at least May 15, and indicated he would reassess the situation at that time.

“There’s nobody who wants to open the schools more than I do,” said Murphy in his daily press briefing. “We need to be guided where the facts are…and that means it will not be safe to reopen our schools or start sports back up for at least another four weeks.”

Murphy initially ordered school closures to begin on March 18 and last for at least two weeks; he later extended that closure to April 17.

NJSBA Report to Explore Issues, Concerns  Also on April 16, Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, NJSBA executive director, announced that the Association will develop a white paper on issues facing local boards of education when schools reopen.

“We understand Governor Murphy’s decision to keep schools closed in the interest of the health of our students, teachers and other staff and the well-being of our communities,” said Feinsod. “However, it is not too soon to take a serious look at the issues facing districts when schools reopen, whether that happens later this spring or in September.

“School board members, superintendents and educators have cited many challenges they will encounter when students return to the classroom,” he explained.

According to Feinsod, the white paper will address the following issues, among others:

  • Measuring the academic progress made by students during a period of virtual instruction;
  • Providing necessary remedial programming;
  • Adjusting educational programs to accommodate social distancing and other preventive measures;
  • Addressing the mental health needs of students and staff;
  • Examining the potential impact on school sports and other extracurricular activities;
  • Maintaining adequate sanitation of school facilities; and
  • Determining the pandemic’s impact on school finances.

“NJSBA will reach out to state and local education officials and to other state and national organizations in developing the white paper,” said Feinsod. “Upon its completion, we will share the report with our members and others in the education community.”

Taking Steps to Reopening  At his April 19 briefing, Murphy said he expects to provide the state with a broad blueprint for reopening the state later this week.  The blueprint, he said, would not be specific as to time, but would lay out a series of principles that will guide the state as “we put the pieces in place to get back to some sort of new normalcy.”  Key to that will be increasing the availability in testing; Murphy said New Jersey would need to double the amount of testing that is currently being done.  The governor also said it would be critically important to reduce the time required to get test results.

Murphy also announced his representatives to a six-state council which will develop a plan to reopen workplaces and restart the economy. Along with New Jersey, participating states include New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.

“A coordinated, regional approach, informed by a multi-state council of experts, will help us avoid a major setback with potentially disastrous consequences,” said Murphy. “ I look forward to the day when the facts on the ground allow us to ease our restrictions and move our regional economy forward.”

New Jersey’s representatives include George Helmy, chief of staff to the governor; Dr. Richard Besser, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and former acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); and Jeh Johnson, former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security.

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