Every region in NJ is safe for schools to reopen, Murphy says
Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday he believes every region of New Jersey has made enough progress in the fight against the novel coronavirus to open schools in person this fall.
Murphy showed off a regional risk assessments he's previously said would help guide reopenings, as districts grapple with and continue to revise plans to open in person, remotely or in some combination. According to Murphy's administration, the northeast and northwest of New Jersey are at low risk from coronavirus spread, and the rest of the state remains at moderate risk.
"Each region of the state is safe for school reopening, with, as we've said, the right precautions," Murphy said Monday at his thrice-weekly coronavirus update to media and the public. Those include social distancing and, now, mandatory mask-wearing for most students.
The governor had insisted through much of the summer that all districts should be prepared to return students for in-person instruction at least some of the time, though parents who feel unsafe would have the option to keep their children at home. But as several districts told the state they don't believe they can operate safely in person — and as the New Jersey Education Association, the state's largest teacher's union, argued the same — Murphy instead opened the option for districts to start the year all-remote.
Still, though, he's said the state would reject all-remote plans that don't have a strong demonstrated need or a timetable for returning children to classrooms.
Murphy said Monday 745 plans have been submitted to the state Department of Education — and 389 have been kicked back to districts for further revisions. It wasn't immediately clear from his statement just how many of those were being sent back because they didn't incorporate enough in-person instruction.
Another 251 had been deemed complete and approved. Murphy said 105 were still awaiting review.
The governor also said 436 reopening plans "envision a hybrid model of in-person and remote learning." Fifty-nine plans, he said, envision all-in-person learning, and 180 envision starting with all remote-learning in September. He also said 11 "contain a mixture of the above," though it wasn't clear how that would be distinct from the 441 hybrid plans.
Note: This story originally reflected different counts for those figures, as originally relayed by Gov. Phil Murphy's twitter account. His tweets reflecting those numbers have since been deleted. The counts reflected above are those shown in graphics presented at Murphy's coronavirus press conference Monday.
The governor also showed graphic during his presentation with slightly different numbers for all of those counts, apparently from a different snapshot in time.
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