Gov. Phil Murphy said he will authorize a shutdown of all schools on Monday during his daily briefing on the coronavirus outbreak Sunday afternoon.
The shutdown, which will force all students into remote or virtual learning, will go into effect on Tuesday.
Murphy has been saying for days that the state would take this action. The holdup has been two-fold:
- Approximately 250,000 students depend on schools for their biggest meal of the day;
- Approximately 300,000 students do not have the ability to work virtually.
State Commissioner of Education Lamont Repollet has been working to solve those problems. It’s unclear to what extent to solutions have been found.
Schools in the state have been preparing for this situation for the past week. Many, in fact, already had scheduled Monday as an off-day for kids — some are using their unused snow days — so that teachers and administrators could sure up plans.
For Murphy, doing so helps the state confront a bigger issue: Severely limiting social contact.
Murphy repeatedly said on Sunday’s call that more measures are coming on that — and coming soon.
He also made it clear that the closing of schools does not mean a shutdown of learning.
“This is not one extended spring break,” he said. “And I want to make sure the parents hear that as well. We need rigorous behavior by all parts of society.
“There need to be structure. There needs to be complete respect for this notion of social distancing. We’ve taken pretty aggressive steps, you should assume we’re going to take a lot more aggressive steps even within the next 24 hours. This is not a party boat. This is real. And this curve will be defined in the next 7-14 days and it’s up to us.
“All of us have to play our part. If we do, we’ll flatten that curve.”
Teaching remotely will offer many challenges past just making sure all students have access to the internet.
Scott Cascone, the superintendent of schools for the West Orange Public Schools, told ROI-NJ last week that it’s not as simple as saying, “Let’s go to online learning” — as nearly all of the state’s colleges and universities previously did.
In addition to internet access, there are issues with how courses are taught — and how things very from grade level to grade level.