In a video interview released by the New Jersey School Boards Association on Sept. 3, Gov. Phil Murphy explained how the unpredictable nature of the coronavirus affected state guidance as schools prepared to begin the 2020-2021 academic year.

The interview is part of NJSBA’s “Education Matters” series.

Gov. Murphy addressed educators’ apprehension about returning to school for in-person instruction during the public health emergency, his decision to give school districts flexibility in developing reopening plans, and the state’s efforts to close the digital divide.

The governor said that he understands the health concerns expressed by teachers and other staff members. While some school officials have been frustrated that the administration did not give stricter health guidance, Murphy said he tried to give districts the maximum amount of flexibility to formulate reopening plans appropriate to their communities.

The state recognized that “not every school could get to September 8th with all the safety boxes checked appropriately for everything, whether it’s small, for masks, to big things like ventilation,” Murphy said.

“We said you could submit a plan … that envisions remote (learning) … but please give us what your challenges are that you’re trying to remediate, and give us a reasonable date by when you think you can have them addressed, and we’ll work with you.”

The governor said he is excited that schools are reopening and feels like “this is like the last week of training camp and the season kicks off next week.” Acknowledging the challenges ahead, Murphy said, “It’s going to be a year unlike any other.”

Murphy also recognized the exemplary work done by boards of education, administrators and other stakeholders to prepare for the year ahead.

“I can’t thank everyone enough for the incredible work that they’ve put in,” he said. “None of us have ever lived through this before.”

NJSBA Executive Director Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod thanked the governor for appearing on the program.

“The governor gave thoughtful responses to questions that have been on the minds of board of education members,” said Feinsod. “We appreciate his remarks and will maintain an open dialogue with him and his staff as we work toward the common goal of providing an educational program to our students in a safe and healthy environment.”

The interview with Gov. Murphy can be accessed on NJSBA’s YouTube channel here.

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