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NJ officials give updates on upcoming school year

Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) said New Jersey is currently one of the safest states in regard to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreaks due to the strict social distancing measures implemented over the past few months. 
Photo by Rich Hundley / The TrentonianGov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) said New Jersey is currently one of the safest states in regard to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreaks due to the strict social distancing measures implemented over the past few months. 

Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) held a press conference yesterday to announce 329 new cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and 11 new deaths, bringing the statewide total to 192,595 cases and 14,181 deaths. 

Murphy said the state’s social distancing measures over the past few months helped New Jersey achieve one of the lowest daily positivity rates and rates of transmission in the nation, but added that residents should still take precautions.

“Let’s be clear where we are: the virus is not done with us yet, not by a long shot,” he said. “But today, we can say that New Jersey is one of the safest states in the United States.”

Murphy also updated the travel advisory, which calls for travelers entering New Jersey to quarantine for 14 days depending on which state they came from. The advisory now includes Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.

During the press conference, Murphy and Interim Commissioner of the Department of Education Kevin Dehmer gave updates on school reopenings. The Daily Targum previously reported all pre-K through 12 schools must submit a plan to the Department of Education detailing their reopening plan. 

As of yesterday, he said 434 districts plan on using a hybrid model of in-person and remote learning, 242 districts plan to begin the year fully remote, 68 districts plan to have fully in-person instruction and 22 districts are using some combination of the other three methods.

The Department of Education must review and approve of all plans, the Targum reported. As of yesterday, Murphy and Dehmer said 545 plans were approved, 221 are either being reviewed or revised and 35 were not yet reviewed.

Dehmer discussed some of the state’s efforts to support schools financially during the pandemic. He said the state received approximately $310 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act for K through 12 education, with 90 percent of the funds going directly to school districts. He said the districts have the flexibility to use the funds as they see fit and will spend approximately 25 percent of the funding on providing technology for students in need.

Dehmer said later this week, the Department of Education will release resources to train educators on engaging with students remotely and help parents and families understand how to use technology to stay connected with the school.

The state will also allocate approximately $100 million of federal COVID-19 relief funding to help schools meet the health and safety standards required to reopen, he said.

In addition to federal funding, Dehmer said Murphy’s revised budget for fiscal year 2021 allocates approximately $8.7 billion for direct aid for schools, with two-thirds of all school districts receiving more funding than the year before. An additional $68 million will go toward preschool programs, $10 million of which will be used to establish new programs.

“We’ve accomplished so much over the summer, we’re now far, far more prepared to take on public education in the age of coronavirus,” Dehmer said. “We begin this school year lightyears ahead of where we started last spring.”