TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — New Jersey educational leaders had been pressuring Gov. Phil Murphy to keep schools closed for the remainder of the academic year and Monday afternoon he delivered the news they were hoping for.
New Jersey schools will remain closed for the rest of the academic year, the governor announced Monday.
“We reached this conclusion based on the guidance from our public health experts and with a single goal in mind – the safety and wellbeing of our children and of our educators, administrators and staff,” he said.
Students and staff will continue with remote learning until schools break for the summer, reports CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez.
“I had hoped we could get back to a sense of normal by allowing our children to return to the schools they love and to be with their friends and classmates,” said Murphy. “But the reality is that we cannot safely reopen our schools to provide students and families or faculty and staff the confidence needed to allow for a return to in-person instruction.”
“I honestly feel like there is no way around this,” said sixth-grade teacher Linda Luongo. “They don’t want to have anyone’s death on their hands.”
Luongo works at Franklin School in North Bergen and supports the closure but says she’s worried kids are falling behind.
“I’m devastated,” she said. “I’m devastated for the kids and devastated for the instructional time. I’m devastated that I’m not doing enough? I know I’m working harder now than I’ve ever have before but it’s like 25 people out of 57 showing up.”
Many parents share the same concern, but most – like Cheely Sy of Bergenfield with two daughters in high school – are relieved the children will be closing out the school year at home.
“If there was a second wave of corona, there’s no real plan yet in place either, so I wouldn’t want to put them at risk,” said Cy.
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The status of potential summer programs and the 2020-2021 school year are still up in the air.
“There is a lot to be decided about how the school day may differ once our students and faculty return,” Murphy said. “Throughout all of these issues, we are keenly focused on issues of equity.”
The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association has also advised against resuming spring sports, the governor said.
“This decision, I know, goes beyond just considerations of safety given COVID-19, but also to the overall physical health and safety of our student athletes,” said Murphy.
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The governor encouraged school districts to come up with “safe and creative” ways to celebrate the Class of 2020.
“Our graduating seniors were looking forward to their proms and walking across the stage to receive their diplomas in front of their families and friends. I still want to see them have those opportunities,” he said.
The Murphy administration will now create a steering committee of education experts to explore possible summer programming, and approaches for the safest most efficient way to reopen school for the 2020-21 school year.
“I do realize that it takes something like this to be safe and to make sure that we make the right choices so that we don’t send them back into a scenario that turns out to be a disaster,” said David Waterman of Hillsdale.
Waterman has two sons, Jake in ninth-grade and Aiden in sixth-grade. They say remote learning has been a challenge, but knowing they’re not returning will help them focus on the future.
“I think it’s the right decision because it’s going to be safer for kids,” said Jake. “The longer we stay in quarantine the sooner this will all pass over.”
“It gives them an opportunity for the summer to prepare the schools and come up with the right way to get us back to normal day life, I guess starting in September, hopefully,” said David.
The governors have said they plan to work together on gradually reopening the region.