Everyone back to school — no remote learning — in fall, Murphy says
TRENTON — With a few months to go until the end of the second school year, Gov. Phil Murphy expects a fresh start with full-time classes after the summer.
"We are expecting Monday through Friday, in person, every school, every district," Murphy said at Wednesday's state pandemic briefing when asked about a return to "normal" classes by September.
The governor said that unless "the world goes sideways," families would not have an option to keep students remote in the next school year, as of Wednesday.
The state's largest teacher's union was more cautious in its written reaction.
"We share Gov. Murphy’s hope that New Jersey’s public schools will be able to safely and responsibly open for in-person instruction in the fall. No one can say with certainly what the pandemic will look like in September, but with competent national leadership at last, a broader, faster vaccine rollout and continued vigilance in our communities, there is good reason to be hopeful that conditions by that time will allow schools to safely and responsibly open for in-person instruction," according to a statement from a spokesperson for the New Jersey Education Association to New Jersey 101.5.
"We will continue to advocate for all of the mitigation strategies — including social distancing, mask wearing, careful cleaning and adequate ventilation – that the CDC and other experts say are necessary for as long as they say those measures necessary to keep students and staff safe in school," the NJEA said.
Ventilation and the HVAC systems of older school buildings have remained sticking points among teachers' associations in Montclair and South Orange-Maplewood, some of the more high-profile school districts that have remained fully remote for more than a year, now.
In Montclair, the township’s 11 public schools will return to a hybrid schedule no sooner than April 12, in a compromise reached after the township withdrew a previous lawsuit against the local teacher's union.
The South Orange-Maplewood Education Association pushed back against plans to resume hybrid instruction for all grades earlier this month. Instead, in-person instruction restarted only for Kindergarten through grade 2 as of March 15.
A week later, and after a court hearing on March 16, some in-person instruction resumed on Monday for grades 6 and 9, according to South Orange-Maplewood school district officials, with no specific details listed for grades 3,4,5,7,8 or the remaining three levels of high school.
As of Wednesday, 90 schools or districts statewide reported being on all-remote instruction, which accounts for 301,856 students, the governor said.
“We know there has been learning loss in these scenarios, especially,” Murphy said. “There’s been learning loss up and down our state and across our country.”
More than two-thirds of students are back in classrooms in some form, Murphy announced on Wednesday, as 534 schools or districts are open for hybrid instruction, while 143 schools or districts have reported they are open for all-person instruction.
Another 44 schools or districts reported as being some combination of models.
State officials have been working directly with those all-remote districts, where students have been out of classrooms for more than a full year at this point, to try and facilitate a return in some capacity, he added.
“We all recognize this has been an extraordinarily stressful school year,” Murphy said, while noting that pharmacies around the state — CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens – have vaccinated roughly 34,500 educators across 370 educator-specific clinics since March 5.
In addition to those doses through the federal pharmacy vaccine program, others have been vaccinated at the state’s mega-sites and other vaccine points of distribution statewide.
Also as of Wednesday, 3,638,002 total vaccine doses have been administered statewide, with nearly 1.3 million individuals now fully vaccinated.