Gov. Phil Murphy and the New Jersey Department of Education (DOE) plan to create a $2.5 million grant program to help stop learning loss among students due to COVID-19-related school closures.
Funded through the CARES Act, 16 school districts across the state will receive grants to expand existing programs or launch new initiatives that will “accelerate students’ academic progress” and “reduce learning loss,” according to a press release announcing the program.
For schools, “one of the most significant challenges” right now is making sure students stay on track during the ongoing pandemic, Murphy said.
“With this program, among other efforts from the department, we are committed to closing the gap for vulnerable students who may have fallen behind by helping districts implement exemplar programs in their own schools as well as providing additional resources to ensure that every student receives the high-quality education that they deserve,” Murphy said.
For the 2020-21 school year, many districts began with hybrid schooling, which blending in-person instruction and remote learning. However, as a second wave of COVID-19 hits the state, many districts switched back to remote learning to keep students, teachers and staff safe.
Acting Education Commissioner Angelica Allen-McMillian said the DOE remains committed “to working with districts in this crucial endeavor to advance student learning in all New Jersey schools.”
“We know that mitigating the effects of learning loss is not a one-time fix. Rather, this grant signifies the department’s growing commitment to enhancing the suite of tools and supports we provide districts to measure, remediate, and prevent gaps in student learning resulting from COVID-19,” she said.
Under the “Addressing Student Learning Loss” grant program, schools can receive up to $156,500 for each evidence-based intervention or instructional strategies in English language arts, math and/or social or emotional learning supports.
The grant also provides recommendations schools may choose to implement during the 17-month program, which include individual or small group tutoring, after-school programs, summer programs, interventions, coaching for teachers or access to online learning platforms.
Interested districts must apply by Jan. 21, 2021. Click here for information.
Narrowing The Digital Divide
Since the onset of the pandemic in March and schools shifted to remote instruction, Murphy’s administration has prioritized making sure New Jersey’s 1.3 million public school students don’t fall behind.
For students who lack adequate access to technology and internet, the potential for learning loss continues to be a major concern. In July, Murphy announced a plan that would allocate $115 million to public and non-public schools so more students can get the tools needed to learn remotely.
According to the governor, the digital divide is narrowing in New Jersey, with about 9,281 students without the proper technology for remote learning as of Dec. 23. That figure is down from the Summer, when the DOE estimated more than 230,000 students were unable to log on.
As of Dec. 28, the cumulative number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 463,965 with 2,745 total new cases reported and 21 new deaths, bringing that total to 16,706. The state listed probable deaths at 1,945, bringing the overall total to 18,651.
For North Jersey counties, Essex had a total of 255 new cases, Bergen 235 new cases, Hudson 185 new cases, Passaic 132 new cases, Morris 106 new cases, Sussex 44 new cases and Warren 32 cases.
State officials noted 59 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,125, followed by Bergen at 2,022, Hudson with 1,518, Passaic at 1,278, Morris at 770, Sussex at 171 and Warren County at 170.
In regards to probable deaths, Bergen has 260, Essex has 242, Hudson has 163, Morris has 175, Passaic has 149, Sussex has 43 and Warren has 13.
The daily rate of infections from those tested as of Dec. 24 was 11.0%; by region, the rate was 9.8% in the North, 11.8% in the Central region and 12.6% in the South. The state is no longer using serology tests as health officials explained those results show a past presence of the disease as well as a current one.
As for the rate of transmission, it increased to 0.96 from 0.95 the day before. Officials have continually cited transmission rate and positivity rate as health data they rely on to track how the coronavirus is being contained in New Jersey, guiding them in determining when restrictions have to be tightened or lifted.
Officials reported 3,684 patients were hospitalized; of those, 3,482 cases were confirmed and 202 persons under investigation. By region, there were 1,604 in the North, 1,163 in the Central and 852 in the South.
Of those hospitalized, 715 are in intensive care units and 505 on ventilators. While 282 patients were discharged, 396 were admitted.
Essex Tops County Count
Essex has the most cumulative cases in the state with 46,145, followed by Bergen at 45,840, Middlesex at 43,467, Hudson at 42,618, Passaic at 39,310, Union at 35,807, Ocean at 31,233, Monmouth at 30,632, Camden at 27,739, Burlington at 20,326, Morris at 19,625, Mercer at 18,318, Gloucester at 13,616, Somerset at 12,282, Atlantic at 11,765, Cumberland at 7,536, Sussex at 4,235, Warren at 3,796, Hunterdon at 3,629, Salem at 2,597 and Cape May at 2,303.
Another 1,128 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.
In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions, a total of 105 outbreaks involving 459 cases have been reported in 19 of the 21 counties in the Garden State, with seven new outbreaks involving 31 cases recorded in the last week. For North Jersey, Bergen County has 21 confirmed outbreaks with 99 cases, Passaic County has four confirmed outbreaks with 23 cases, Warren County has four confirmed outbreaks with nine cases, Sussex County has three confirmed outbreaks with seven cases and Hudson County has two confirmed outbreaks with 10 cases.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 430 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 11,087 of the cases, broken down between 5,255 residents and 5,832 staff.
Cumulatively, 1,145 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 29,375 residents and 18,597 staff, for a total of 47,972 cases.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,476 on Dec. 28. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,227 residents deaths and 125 staff deaths.