NEW JERSEY – Gov. Phil Murphy announced during his daily coronavirus press conference that schools can be open in September for in-classroom education, with caveats.
There will be rules that everyone has to follow, but there will be some flexibility for each district in how to make education safe, he said.
Social distancing will be a must, he said. Desks should be set apart so the kids won’t be too close to each other. Smaller class sizes are key, but that might not be possible. Districts might consider splitting the student body into shifts for when students would be in the building. They could prepare a mix of in-class instruction and virtual lessons.
All staff and visitors have to wear face coverings at all time, he said. The students will have to wear masks in situations where social distancing would be impossible, such as in the hallways. They will be urged to do so in class, but it won’t be required.
Murphy indicated how difficult this would be for younger students and those with special needs.
Custodians, “the unsung heroes” of the fight against COVID-19, will be responsible for additional cleaning and sanitizing. Schools also need to work with their transportation to keep the buses clean.
These guidelines were drawn from interviews with more than 300 superintendents and reading 300,000 parent and guardian surveys.
While these guidelines are required, the way it can be done can be different from district to district, since schools vary in geographic and demographic ways.
“There is no one-size-fits-all approach,” he said.
The districts should plan for school to return to all virtual in case the numbers start increasing again, he said.
“We are still in the war,” Murphy said. Although New Jersey seems to be past the worst of it, this is still “the fight of our lives.”