While the number of schools in all of New Jersey increased in-school learning, the story in North Jersey is a mixed bag.
In the first update since Jan. 4, Gov. Phil Murphy reported schools offering full in-person instruction increased by three for a total of 80 and those now offering a hybrid of in-person and remote grew by 12 to 360. The number of districts all remote declined by 14 to 325, while 46 districts are offering a combination of all three, a decrease of one.
In North Jersey in the past week, two school systems announced students would return to the classroom. Students in Paramus returned to a hybrid learning schedule after a month and a half of fully remote learning on Jan. 19. Meanwhile, Hackensack public schools, all-virtual since October 2020, will reopen on Jan. 25 under its hybrid model.
North Jersey Schools
But other school systems pushed back a return to in-person schooling as coronavirus cases numbers pushed the schools into high-risk category based on New Jersey Department of Health metrics. Garfield schools will not reopen on Jan. 25 as planned, but instead will remain fully remote until March 8 based on the high-risk rating.
In Hudson County, the Bayonne School District will remain virtual until the end of February as the rise in COVID-19 cases in conjunction with the continued installation of air mitigation systems contributed to the decision to remain under remote instruction.
Dover students will continue remote learning until the end of March despite projects finalized to accommodate their return to in-person learning. The Morris County school’s superintendent reported building preparations for the return to in-person instruction were finalized and in place to keep students safe. But after county reports of more than 100 new cases of COVID-19 in town since the start of the year, school officials decided to keep students virtual until the end of March.
And Wayne schools will not open for in-person instruction for at least another month, as the number of staff and students infected by COVID-19 continues to climb. The Board of Education voted to delay that action until Feb. 11, when trustees will give further consideration to their reopening plan. School officials say they will closely monitor the outbreak and, if it is practical, bring classes back for live instruction before that date.
Officials at two of the larger school systems in North Jersey, Newark and Paterson, have said they will not consider reopening until the Spring if at all possible.
Plan to Get Back
The governor extolled families, students, educators and school leaders “who continue to rise to meet this challenge.”
“The Department of Education and our Executive County Superintendents continue to work closely with local district leaders and stakeholders to ensure the flexibility and communication needed to protect our educational communities from this virus, while maintaining a full slate of instruction,” commented Murphy at a press briefing Jan. 19. “We remain mindful that this pandemic is a very challenging and fluid situation.”
School districts are still required to have a plan in place to get students back into classrooms with the governor hoping President Joe Biden’s plan to get 100 million vaccinations in the arms of Americans provides the avenue to return students and teachers back in the classroom together.
“If by the end of March, I’m just picking a date, our (COVID-19) supplies and our ability to distribute those supplies (are) in a dramatically different and better place, I would guess that they would reconsider that,” said Murphy. “I can’t speak for (the school districts), but they would certainly I think be rightful to reconsider it.”
Murphy noted teachers are the next priority group when the state expands its eligibility list for the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We hope, assuming the supplies can come in right now and if the supplies begin to amp up…educators are on deck and that will only help us get schools open,” stated the governor.