Murphy keeping schools closed for 4 more weeks, but holds out hope of reopening

Gov. Phil Murphy said New Jersey schools will remain closed — and remain on remote learning — for another four weeks. But he wouldn’t commit to closing them for the rest of the year.

Murphy, speaking at his daily COVID-19 briefing, said schools will be closed until at least May 15. And, while he said he was “hopeful” that status can change, he warned people not to read too much into the date — which is about the halfway point between now and the end of the school year.

“It’s a window we collectively feel is a comfortable enough window to give one more shot to reassess,” he said. “At least one more shot.”

Murphy said it’s an issue he gets many questions and comments on, particularly from parents of children involved in spring sports and of seniors scheduled to graduate.

File photo
Gov. Phil Murphy with his family at his inauguration as governor. He reminded parents that he, too, is the father of a high school senior.

As the parent of a high school senior himself, Murphy said he understands the desire to get students back into the classroom.

“Let me be perfectly clear, there’s nobody who wants to open the schools more than I do,” he said. “I’m a father with a son in high school, too, and I want him to return to his regular classrooms. But I can’t do that right now, but I remain hopeful we can.”

Murphy said the state needs to feel more comfortable about the situation.

“I have nothing but complete sympathy,” he said. “Please know that we’re not in any way shape or form trying to be ‘Dr. No’ here. Nothing would give me more joy than to say that we’re ready to go. But we’re just not there.

“If we all continue to stay the course for the next four weeks, we may well have a different message at that point.”

Murphy said the numbers are everything, pointing to the fact that more than 4,000 more confirmed cases were announced Thursday — even at a time when the state feels its actions are helping to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“We cannot be guided by emotion,” he said. “We need to be guided by where the facts on the ground, science and public health take us. And, that means it will not be safe to reopen our schools or start sports back up for at least another four weeks.

“I know this is hard. It’s hard on all of us. But if we all keep pulling and working together, I hope that it will put me in a position in a month’s time to make a different announcement. There is no doubt we are saving lives and we must maintain the course.”

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