In a move unmatched in modern history, Gov. Phil Murphy issued a statewide Executive Order on Monday, March 16, which took sweeping action to reduce the rate of community transmission of the COVID-19 virus.
Executive Order 104 closes all New Jersey schools today and limits public gatherings and commerce in the state to 50 persons or fewer.
Education-Related Actions In shutting down schools, the Executive Order noted, “All public, private, and parochial preschool program premises, and elementary and secondary schools, including charter and renaissance schools, shall be closed to students beginning on Wednesday, March 18, 2020, and shall remain closed as long as this Order remains in effect.”
The order addressed the topic of remote learning for New Jersey’s schoolchildren, in a paragraph which said, “The Commissioner of DOE shall continue working with each public school district, and private and parochial schools as appropriate, to ensure that students are able to continue their educations during this time period through appropriate home instruction. Local school districts, charter schools, and renaissance schools, in consultation with the Commissioner of DOE, shall have the authority and discretion to determine home instruction arrangements as appropriate on a case-by-case basis to ensure all students are provided with appropriate home instruction, taking into account all relevant constitutional and statutory obligations.”
Schools Providing Free and Reduced-Price Meals, Other Essential Services The governor, in paragraph four of the order, provided some flexibility to schools to remain open, with the approval of the education commissioner, on a limited basis if they provide other essential, non-educational services. “The Commissioner of the Department of Education (DOE), in consultation with the Commissioner of DOH, shall be authorized to permit schools to remain open on a limited basis for the provision of food or other essential, non-educational services, or for educational or child care services if needed in emergency situations after consultation with the Commissioner of DOH. The Commissioner of DOE shall also have the authority to close any other career or training facilities over which he has oversight, after consultation with the Commissioner of DOH.”
The Executive Order also addressed the responsibility of schools to continue to provide meals to those students eligible for them. “The Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, in conjunction with the Commissioner of DOE, shall take all necessary actions to ensure that all students eligible for free or reduced meals shall continue to receive the services or supports necessary to meet nutritional needs during closures.”
NJSBA’s COVID-19 Resource Center includes a variety of informational resources, including guidance from the New Jersey Department of Education, and is updated regularly.