New Jersey Makes It Official: All Kids Will Be Back In Class This Fall

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy will require all students to go back to their classrooms next school year for full-time, in-person instruction. He said virtual learning will only be allowed if there are local COVID-19 outbreaks or in case of an emergency. 

“We are facing a much different world than one year ago,” Murphy said during a briefing in Trenton on Monday. “We know much more about this virus and how it spreads; we have much more on the ground experience in fighting it and we have a robust vaccination program that reaches adolescents as young as 12.”

Murphy previously said in March that all students would be in school five days a week for the 2021-22 school year but on Monday made the announcement official, declaring that he would not renew an executive order that allows remote learning when it expires at the end of the school year.

New Jersey, which recorded 1.37 million public school students in the 2018-2019 school years, largely left reopening decisions up to local districts this year and most schools are offering some in-person instruction with only a handful of schools still keeping their students fully remote. 

Murphy said additional safety guidelines for schools would come in June. 

“There is still work to do to ensure that every student and staff member returns to a safe learning and working environment,” Marie Blistan, president of the New Jersey Education Association said in a statement. 

“Unfortunately, there are still many school buildings throughout the state that don’t meet minimum standards for the health and safety of students and educators.”

She said it was critical that districts work with their employees to ensure new rounds of federal funding earmarked for schools was used efficiently to keep students and staff safe.

Nearly 22,000 kids between the ages of 12 and 15 in the state have received the first dose of the vaccine since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the Pfizer vaccine for the young group last week. Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said that’s 4.6% of New Jersey’s population of kids ages 12-15. 

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he expects to offer parents a remote option in the fall but hasn’t committed to it. New York state hasn’t made a decision on in-person learning next year either.