New Jersey outlines guidelines for reopening schools

Cyril Josh Barker | 7/2/2020, midnight
New Jersey state officials released “The Road Back: Restart and Recovery Plan for Education” to assist schools with reopening in ...
Mother preparing child to go to school, COVID-19/Coronavirus Photo by August de Richelieu from Pexels

New Jersey state officials released “The Road Back: Restart and Recovery Plan for Education” to assist schools with reopening in the fall. Public schools will open in the Garden State for in-person instruction and operations in some capacity at the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year.

Minimum standards for schools include social distancing practices in classrooms and face-covering measures for students and staff. The guidance also provides recommendations to assist districts in achieving standards, such as implementing hybrid learning environments in which students receive both in-person and remote instruction.

All New Jersey schools were ordered to close starting March 18 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After the Department worked with school districts to ensure stability through remote instruction, food security for children where needed, and equity in education for students, the focus immediately turned toward planning for reopening.

“This has been an unprecedented time for our students and educators, but we are pleased to announce that we anticipate the return to our classrooms in some capacity this fall,” said Gov. Phil Murphy. “The return to school will pose challenges, but we are confident that New Jersey’s school districts can move forward in a way that best serves the needs of their district while also achieving a safe environment for students and staff.”

The guidelines rely on the most up-to-date data and recommendations from the New Jersey Department of Health and was informed by input from school communities. The Department has been engaged in regular contact with educators and stakeholders, and has conducted daily site visits, weekly stakeholder meetings and discussions with a standing committee of nearly two dozen superintendents.

Beyond this ongoing engagement, the NJDOE convened approximately 50 education and community organizations, met with over 300 superintendents, and surveyed nearly 300,000 parents/guardians to inform the development of the reopening plan.

“I understand this will be no easy feat,” Education Commissioner Lamont O. Repollet said of the return to school. “Knowing that the health of students and staff is our number one concern, our guide will begin to fill in the picture of what a safe education system will look like in the fall.”