TRENTON – To the surprise of very few, Gov. Phil Murphy began his daily press conference with the news that he wasn’t waiting for May 15 to announce the status of public and private schools in the state. Due to the continued conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic they would remain closed through the current school year.
“Charter, county vo-tech, private, public and other school leaders were alerted to make plans for the continuation of remote learning,” the governor said.
“As a father of a high schooler who has been attending classes remotely for nearly two months with siblings in college doing the same, I understand the concerns of both parents and school leaders. I understand those concerns even if I don’t always understand those assignments,” Murphy said.
“I think a lot of us are in that boat,” he added. “I also fully appreciate the disappointment that our kids won’t be closing the school year among their friends. For us to ensure that we can undertake a responsible restart and recovery, this step was necessary.”
The governor emphasized that this decision only applies to the remainder of the 2019-2020 regular academic school year. The Department of Education “will be leading regular stakeholder meetings along with district leaders, educators, local officials and parent organizations to determine if summer educational or enrichment and other programs – often at our schools – can proceed.”
Murphy said that once a final determination of those programs is made, “we will certainly announce it.”
He said the Dept. of Education would conduct “the same vigorous work with stakeholder engagement regarding the opening of our buildings for the 2020-2021 school year in September. There is a lot to consider about to how the school day may differ once our students and faculty return.”
Gov. Murphy said that there was strong focus on the issue of equity. “Where sports are concerned, we are leaning on the guidance of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association against the resumption of spring sports during the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year as well.”
Due to a lack of wide-spread testing and a vaccine, spring sports were not a viable option, the Governor added.
“This decision goes beyond the safety involved for COVID-19 but also to the overall physical safety of our athletes,” Murphy said.
The governor also noted the disappointment students would have in missing their proms and graduation ceremonies and walking along the stage with their friends.
“I still want to see them have those opportunities but we will be working with the districts to give them creative ways to give the class of 2020 a proper send off to their bright futures,” the governor concluded.