New Jersey Schools Due to Reopen Next School Year

         Governor Phil Murphy said all New Jersey schools will reopen for in-person learning for the upcoming school year. Schools will be in-person full time as Murphy’s August executive order to rely on remote learning will expire at the end of the current school year. Parents will not be allowed to opt their children out of in-person learning as was the case for the 2020-2021 school year. Murphy says schools can return to only remote learning if there is a local outbreak of the virus. He explains how it is a “much different world” than it was at the beginning of the pandemic. Murphy is comfortable with reopening schools because there is more information available on the virus, more experience with social distancing, and vaccinations being offered for children as young as 12.

         Supporting Murphy’s decision is the National Teachers Union. Many teachers believe their eligibility for vaccines has been a “big step to take” in opening schools. As of May 10 there are only 13 schools who remain fully virtual out of the 800 districts. Out of those 800 districts 338 are fully open and 416 are following a hybrid schedule. Murphy’s intentions of reopening schools as soon as possible has been evident since last year when he advocated for in-person learning for the 2020-2021 school year and was met with resistance; which he ultimately gave into.

         Although many schools do not meet the minimum standard for the safety of students and faculty they are set on reopening this fall. New regulations are being created in order to make the return to schools safer. Ventilation is a priority for schools this upcoming school year since Covid-19 is more likely to spread inside rather than outside. Schools are going as far to refurbish entire HVAC units (Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) to provide the best possible ventilation throughout the building. However, many schools are also making simple changes to their routine such as leaving windows open and changing to outdoor lunches.

         Senator M. Teresa Ruiz, head of the Senate’s Education Committee, says although the shift to remote learning was necessary it has taken a toll on the academic standing and emotional health of students. She says a return to school will be the first step in a return to normalcy as it will allow both parents and students to return to their old routines. Further details regarding the future schedule of reopening will likely come in June.