Gov. Phil Murphy, appearing on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” this morning, said “there is a chance” schools in New Jersey, where the coronavirus has claimed more lives than any state other than New York, could reopen before the conclusion of the academic year.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, governors of 43 states across the country have ordered or recommended that schools be closed and remote learning be continued for the remainder of the academic year, according to Education Week.
But Gov. Phil Murphy, appearing on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” this morning, said “there is a chance” schools in New Jersey, where the coronavirus has claimed more lives than any state other than New York, could reopen before the conclusion of the academic year.
“We’ve not made that decision,” Murphy said in a broad-ranging 14-minute CNBC interview.
“We have tried to take this in bites. We wanted to have as much information at our disposal as possible. We’ve canceled in-person schooling until at least May 15 and will give guidance before May 15 as to where we see the rest of the school year. But is there a chance we can get back in some new reality? This is all going to be a new norm including what school looks like. ... Do we encourage face coverings, etcetera. Those questions are to be determined. But yes, there is a chance we could get back in school.”
The 2019-20 academic year for New Jersey’s public schools varies from district to district but concludes for all of them around the middle or toward the end of June.
Murphy is not expected to make a definitive announcement until the middle of next month regarding school closings, but did unveil a multi-layered plan today with no specific timeline for a methodical and strategic reopening of New Jersey’s non-essential businesses and some government services.
The governor titled his six-principle blueprint “The Road Back,” couching it as a “roadmap for restoring New Jersey’s economic health through public health.”
The state’s ability to realize the goals delineated in Murphy’s roadmap would provide guidance for the reopening of schools, as well.
Those goals include sustained reductions in new cases and hospitalizations, expanded testing, the implementation of robust contact tracing and the continued quarantining of individuals who test positive.
Murphy ordered all public and private schools indefinitely closed statewide on March 18.
More than 1.4 million public school students in New Jersey’s 600-plus districts have since – or before – been engaged in remote instruction with approximately 200,000 teachers, who are navigating uncharted waters with online learning.
Senator Patrick J. Diegnan Jr. has praised educators, many of who today are commencing their sixth week of distance learning amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“I know firsthand the challenges they are facing at this particular time,” Diegnan, the former chair of the State Assembly Education Committee, previously told MyCentralJersey.com.
“I think as much as anybody else – including medical staff, police and emergency personnel – they are really on the forefront of maintaining some normalcy in our society right now. If it wasn’t for their teachers being able to interact with them, young people would basically be in a hopelessly terrifying situation. The teachers are really maintaining consistency and opportunity for these young folks.”
“Let’s hope it doesn’t happen, but there’s a possibility that the kids may not go back to school this year, and the next issue that needs to be addressed is what is the curriculum going to be next September.”
Earlier this month, Murphy said during a daily COVID-19 press briefing that he believed traditional high school graduation ceremonies are unlikely to take place this spring.
“I just personally don’t see it,” Murphy said of graduations being held in late May or early June. “I hope I’m wrong. I wouldn’t put any nonrefundable checks down on your (graduation) celebrations right now. It’s hard to say otherwise.”
Those remarks fall in line with Murphy stating this morning on CNBC that his guess is general assemblies will not be held if schools reopen this academic year.
Murphy has previously stated that, in his opinion, should schools reopen this academic year, students would likely return to the classroom wearing protective masks.