Governor: All school buildings in NJ will remain closed until the end of the school year

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced Monday that all school buildings in the state will remain closed for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year to ensure the safety of students, staff, and families during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“All students and faculty will continue remote learning, and private schools will remain closed until at least Juen 30,” Murphy said at his daily press briefing, adding that officials reached the decision to keep schools closed based on the guidance of public health experts. “The reality is, we cannot safely reopen our schools,” he said. “The hurdles allowing students and faculty to return — even for a short while —  could not be overcome.”

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced last week that New York schools would remain closed for the remainder of the school year. Murphy said New Jersey is the 46th state to announce that schools will remain closed.

The New Jersey Department of Education will require school districts to provide students with the equivalent of at least 180 days of education, the minimum number of days required by law in the state.

Officials said they have been working to close the technology gap for students who do not have internet access at home. About 15 percent of students in public schools in the state, or about 90,000 students, still do not have access to the internet at home. Some districts where students don’t have access to technology have been providing students with take-home packets of work instead of instructing them online.

The state has asked the federal government for $310 million to pay for needs like technology, summer enrichment programs, and cleaning supplies for schools.

Schools will continue to feed students who qualify for free and reduced lunch programs for the remainder of the year. The head of the New Jersey Department of Education said school districts must provide students with food that meets USDA guidelines for school lunch programs.

Officials said they are looking for creative ways for students to celebrate proms and graduations, that include virtual celebrations and in-person ceremonies later in the calendar year.