TRENTON — In-person classroom instruction will return to public schools in the state's capital city on Monday after a Superior Court judge ordered teachers back to work.

The school district announced students would be back in classrooms for the first time since March 18, 2020, after spending millions to improve schools including the purchase of 1,500 air purifiers for every room along with plexiglass shields and signage and stickers to remind students of social distancing and hand washing.

All New Jersey schools were closed by executive order last year but Gov. Phil Murphy has since said that districts should reopen buildings. Schools were given the option to make their own decisions about reopening with in person, remote or a hybrid schedule. Remote learning had to be offered to parents who did not want their kids back in classrooms.

The district said in a lawsuit that when a return to classrooms in a hybrid schedule was brought up, the teachers union stopped talking. A flyer was then sent out by the teachers union to community members, bringing up concerns with the limitations of such hybrid learning.

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The lawsuit was prompted when many teachers failed to show up at school on April 22 to prepare for their return.

Judge Robert Lougy said instructions by the Trenton Education Association’s to its members to not report to class was essentially a strike, which is illegal in New Jersey, according to coverage by the Trentonian of the ruling.

Lougy agreed the district had taken enough steps to make buildings safe.

Murphy at his coronavirus briefing on Wednesday said only 25 schools or districts statewide remain on a fully remote schedule. The governor has said he expects all schools to be return to classroom instruction in September.

"By my math today, we exceeded the 85% goal of getting our kids either hybrid or all in person. We are at 85.96% by my math today. We have every expectation that number continues – will continue to rise," Murphy said.

A message for the Trenton Education Association on Friday morning was not immediately returned.

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