All public schools will plan to resume in-person classes in some capacity in the fall, according to the governor.
Each school district is expected to make its own reopening plan that meets the state’s minimum standards.
“We must take into account the many geographic, demographic and economic differences which exist among our schools and education communities, which can each vary greatly, even among neighbors,” said Murphy.
Faculty, staff and visitors will be required to wear face coverings inside, unless it poses individual health risks outlined by the CDC.
“Students will be strongly encouraged to wear face coverings, and will be required to do so when social distancing cannot be maintained,” said Murphy, referring to classrooms, hallways and buses.
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“Social distancing will be our guiding principle,” said Murphy. “Every effort must be taken to ensure proper social distancing of students within their classrooms, whether by rearranging the location of desks and tables or other modifications to the classroom layout.”
Murphy said class sizes should be limited where possible.
The governor said certain activities, like “close reading circles,” will be discouraged.
Cafeteria and recess schedules will also be staggered.
The governor acknowledged social distancing will be more challenging in larger school districts, and said they will be allowed to rearrange schedules to limit in-person attendance.
“We recognize that the sheer number of students in a building may make it impractical for all students to be in their schools at once…we are providing them with the flexibility to rearrange their school schedules to allow for grouping or cohorting,” said Murphy.
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“If schools are not able to maintain this physical distance, additional modifications should be in place, including physical barriers between desks and turning desks to face the same direction,” said Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet.
Districts may also divide time between traditional classes and online lessons.
The state guidance calls on districts to ensure each student is equipped for remote learning.
“Districts must be prepared for the possibility that public health could require another switch to all remote learning at any time,” said Murphy.
Murphy said funding will be available to districts that need help getting the technology.