Parents and students must be prepared to return to school in the fall, full-time, with no virtual option, Gov. Phil Murphy said May 17 during a COVID-19 briefing.

Murphy’s executive order that allowed for virtual schooling during the pandemic will not be renewed after this academic year, officially ending the option for online learning, the governor said Monday, according to NJ.com.

“Neatly stated, through this action, we are declaring that all students will be back in school for full-time, in-person instruction come the start of the 2021-2022 school year,” Murphy said during his COVID-19 media briefing in Trenton.

But Murphy insisted that all in New Jersey continue to wear masks when inside, even if they are fully vaccinated. While that conflicts with the latest recommendation from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Murphy said it is necessary to protect unvaccinated individuals from potential infection and to spare retail employees from mask-enforcement duties, according to a May 18 article in NJSpotlight.com.

New Jersey is the only state in the Northeast to continue to require people to wear masks indoors.

“While we have made tremendous progress, we aren’t out of the woods yet,” Murphy said at his pandemic news conference Monday. “The majority of New Jerseyans are still unvaccinated and we’re not checking anyone’s vaccine status at the door when you go to the supermarket or the hardware store.

“I don’t know how we can expect workers to be able to tell who is vaccinated from who isn’t,” he continued. “And it is unfair to put the burden on business owners and frontline employees to police every patron,” NJSpotlight reported.

Last year, in the midst of the public health crisis and before vaccines were available, Murphy insisted that school districts prepare to teach students in-person. Late in the summer, the governor changed course, requiring schools to offer a virtual option for instruction.

As pandemic conditions continue to evolve, the NJSBA will provide updates and information in School Board Notes.

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