Murphy explains push for a return to in-school instruction

By Tom Bergeron
Trenton | Jul 29, 2020 at 3:38 pm

The point was well made. Indoor schooling is not like indoor dining. At least, it’s not from a socioeconomic standing. And it showed where Gov. Phil Murphy stands on schools reopening for indoor instruction in the fall.

“If you can’t dine indoors, you have the choice to eat outdoors,” he said. “You can eat at home — you can do takeout.”

When it comes to learning, Murphy said the state has too many kids where a second choice doesn’t exist or is incredibly inferior.

“There is no Plan B,” he said. “We just have to keep that in mind.”

Whether kids should be in schools has been the toughest call since the beginning of the pandemic. One that — despite Murphy’s constant plea that data drives decisions — is based more on the social sciences than those that measure health.

Whether it’s providing meals for those who are challenged to find them — or providing a place to go (and learn) so their parents or guardians can go to jobs that cannot be done remotely — social equity always has been the driving force behind education decisions.

It figures to be the hardest puzzle for Murphy to solve.

The governor has found money to provide devices and broadband services to those who do not have them — an estimated 240,000 students. Of course, while getting the funding is key, it does not ensure the kids who need support will get it. On Wednesday, Murphy said he had no update on the situation.

The backlash on safety figures to be a bigger test.

Teachers unions are slowly beginning to voice opposition. Parents groups, too. And this is before definitive plans have been released to the public.

Even more, it’s before a single outbreak has occurred in schools. And there will be outbreaks. The Rutgers University football program — not to mention Major League Baseball’s Miami Marlins — are showing that even the best of intentions cannot protect everyone.

Murphy, on this date, said the state has no other choice than to give it a go. As he said, takeout is not necessarily an option for everyone.

“There’s a strong chorus on both sides of this, and I will focus my answer on the equity piece,” he said “I’m not going to name any districts that can probably far more easily have the extra room in the house or afford the tutor — or maybe more than one device that works. But there are lots of communities in our state that don’t look like that. Where in-person education is not only a richer experience, but it is an essential experience with no other alternative.

“There’s no one-size-fits-all here, and I can’t say that strongly enough.”

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