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July 27, 2020

In-person learning is 'critical,' virtual classes a last resort, Gov. Murphy says

New Jersey pushing to keep students in school as much as possible

Education Coronavirus
New Jersey schools Edwin J. Torres/New Jersey Office of the Governor

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy says the state's plan for the 2020-21 school year will help 'close the digital divide' felt during the COVID-19 pandemic.

New Jersey officials are urging school districts to prioritize in-person instruction this fall, a push that falls in line with updated recommendations issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Virtual learning ideally should compliment classroom learning, Gov. Phil Murphy stressed Monday. Still, he acknowledged the school year will be abnormal due to protocols designed to prevent COVID-19 transmission. 

"Every education expert we’ve spoken to over the past few months has confirmed that in-person education is critical, and that remote learning is only an acceptable substitute when absolutely necessary," Murphy said. "If done safely, I believe we must try to include at least an aspect of in-person education for our children this fall."

His comments reiterated the instructions New Jersey officials issued to schools earlier this summer. 

All schools are expected to resume some in-person instruction, though schools can develop a hybrid model that includes some virtual learning. The state is allowing parents and students to opt for all-remote instruction.

Guidance released last week by the CDC also encourages the resumption of in-person instruction, but with health and safety guidelines in place. Those protocols include keeping desks six feet apart, having students remain in the same classroom for the entire day and developing policies on face coverings.

Still, some American school districts have opted to keep their students at home, particularly in cities where the coronavirus has surged. 

"Our goal is to provide as much flexibility as possible to local school districts to implement plans that best fit their communities," Murphy said. "Safety and education have to go hand in hand."

State officials are trying to provide the best education while ensuring equity for families who depend more upon in-person instruction – all while keeping students, educators and families safe from COVID-19. 

Murphy  reiterated that remote learning is a more viable educational option for affluent school districts, students and families.

"All of this must be part of our thinking as we move to September," Murphy said. "This is going to be a school year unlike any other. We’re committed to ensuring that the concerns of students and families, educators and administrators will be heard."

New Jersey closed schools in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The rest of the school year consisted of remote instruction.

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