New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced during his press conference today that schools will remain closed for in-person instruction for the rest of the year. After shutting down schools on March 18th, he had created a deadline of May 15th to return, but now he’s made the official decision to keep the NJ schools closed through the end of the academic year.
Before today’s announcement, New Jersey was just one of five states that still had a pending reopen date in May. According to Education Week, the other states, including our neighbors in New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware, had all either made official closure announcements or recommended that NJ schools be closed through the rest of the school year. Private schools that have longer school years will remain closed until at least June 30.
“This has been an inclusive and rigorous process involving people with a wide range of experiences and perspectives,” Murphy said. “Because of this process, we’ve been able to reach this conclusion 11 days in advance of the deadline I had previously set. We wanted you to know when we did to provide certainty.”
“I had hoped we could get back to a sense of normal by allowing our children to return to the schools they love, and to be with their friends and classmates,” he continued. “But, the reality is that we cannot safely reopen our schools to provide students and families, or faculty and staff, the confidence needed to allow for a return to in-person instruction. We could not guarantee an environment that would not only be safe but fully capable of meeting the educational needs of students in a setting built for social distancing.
Students in New Jersey will still be required to continue with the digital or remote learning that they’ve been doing the last month, but this does mean that proms, graduations and moving up ceremonies are off the table, at least for now. Some schools are finding virtual ways to celebrate, while others are tentatively planning some fun get-togethers when group gatherings are allowed again. Murphy said that he’s working with schools to provide opportunities and come up with creative ways to recognize the class of 2020.
He also officially announced the cancelation of any school-based spring sports. He made this decision in conjunction with the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA), who have advised against the resumption of spring sports due to the lack of testing, viable treatments and vaccines.
While schools will remain closed indefinitely, Murphy did acknowledge that the DOE would be leading stakeholder meetings to discuss summer education and enrichment programs, as well as the reopening of the buildings for the 2020-2021 school year in September. “There’s a lot to consider about how the school day may differ once our students and faculty return,” he acknowledged.