Gov. Phil Murphy announced on Monday that New Jersey’s schools would remain closed through the end of the academic year, and students would continue the remote learning they have been engaged in since March 18.
“This is a difficult decision and I know that many students, parents, and staff would like to be able to return to school,” said Murphy. “However, I have been unwavering on the message that we need to make decisions based on science, not emotion. And while New Jersey is making great strides in mitigating the spread of COVID-19, science tells us that at this point, we can’t safely reopen our schools.”
NJSBA praised the decision. “The governor’s decision is in the best interests of our students’ health and education, and recognizes the concerns expressed by the New Jersey School Boards Association, local school leaders, parents and teachers,” said Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, NJSBA executive director.
“At this stage, we cannot assure parents, students and school staff that health will not be compromised if schools reopen this spring,” he continued. “Moreover, the issues involved in school reopening are complex and difficult. Their resolution will require extensive planning and collaboration between local school districts and state leaders.”
The announcement came just days after Leadership for Educational Excellence (LEE), a coalition of the state’s major educational organizations, including NJSBA, sent a letter urging the governor to keep schools closed through June. The organizations cited the enormous challenges involved in reopening schools.
The administration also announced it would create a steering committee consisting of education community stakeholders to explore and provide recommendations on summer learning opportunities for all students, including school-sponsored summer programming and extended school year for students with disabilities. The committee will also explore approaches for safe and efficient reopening of schools for the next school year.
Districts Must Update Public Health Related School Closure Plans In light of the governor’s decision to extend school closings through June, the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) is requiring districts to submit updated plans to the county offices of education no later than May 22. More information can be found in the NJDOE memo here.
Federal Stimulus Funding Gov. Murphy also noted that New Jersey recently applied for $310 million in federal funding through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, which is part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
School districts will have discretion in the use of the funds; the CARES Act includes the following in a list of allowable uses:
- Purchase of educational technology, including hardware, software and connectivity
- Purchase of sanitization and cleaning supplies
- Mental health supports
- Plan and implement activities related to summer learning and supplemental after-school programs, including providing online learning during the summer months to address the needs of student subgroups
- Planning and coordinating the distribution of meals to eligible students
- Provide principals and other school leaders with the resources necessary to address the needs of their individual schools
- Activities to address the unique needs of student subgroups
NJSBA Report on Reopening Schools NJSBA is working on a special report that will discuss issues that local boards of education will face when schools reopen. Among the topics the report will examine: assessing academic progress; providing necessary remedial programming; adjusting educational programs to accommodate social distancing and other preventative measures; addressing the mental health needs of students and staff; maintaining adequate sanitation of school facilities; and determining the impact of the pandemic on school finances.