On June 26, Gov. Murphy signed into law A-4142, creating a “Bridge Year Pilot Program.” 

The program requires the commissioner of education to establish a three-year pilot program for students affected by the public health state of emergency caused by COVID-19.  The bill would give current high school sophomores and juniors an optional “bridge year” to participate in high school extracurricular programs. 

Students faced a disruption to their academics, extracurricular activities and spring sports programs when schools shut down because of the coronavirus. To help offset missed opportunities and potential learning loss, the legislation would enable graduating high school seniors, from the classes of 2021 and 2022, to choose to defer graduation and participate in a “bridge year” immediately following their senior year. 

During this period, students would remain enrolled in high school and would take certain college level credits and participate in co–curricular activities or athletics according to the goals of their individualized learning plan.  

The bill would allow students to earn up to 24 credits at a community college while allowing them to remain eligible for high school athletics in the spring. They would also be able to participate in any school–sanctioned non-athletic activity as well. As part of the bill, all public universities in the state of New Jersey would be required to accept all the credits earned.  Furthermore, the legislation does not require, but recommends, that private institutions of higher education that receive financial public support also consider accepting all 24 college credits.  

To be eligible for the bridge year, a student must be 19 years old or younger and cannot not turn 20 years old at any time during the bridge year, except as may otherwise be provided in the student’s individualized education program.