NJ school reopening plan unveiled for fall classes amid coronavirus

The New Jersey Department of Education has released new guidelines on how schools should handle reopening in the fall for in-person classes amid the coronavirus pandemic — including measures such as social distancing, temperature checks and mask-wearing.

The 104-page guidance issued Friday lays out a framework on how the state’s 580 school districts can safely reopen for their 1.4 million students, NorthJersey.com reported.

In order to ensure that schools adhere to social distancing, the guidance will allow the schools to come up with schedules for cohorts of students to alternate remote and on-premises classes, the outlet reported.

Schools must also implement 6-feet social distancing on buses and in classrooms where possible. In cases where desks can’t be placed that far apart, barriers must be erected between them and they should all face in the same direction.

Lunches and recesses should also be staggered to allow for social distancing and cleaning in between groups. In addition, buffet-style self-service lunches in cafeterias should be barred and locker rooms closed — although physical education should continue, the outlet reported.

All teachers, staff and visitors will be required to wear masks and while students are urged to wear masks, they are mandated to wear them if they can’t appropriately social distance themselves from others, the outlet said.

Rigorous cleaning, disinfecting and hand-washing must be implemented on buses and inside school facilities, the guidance states.

The school districts must also screen students and staff for COVID-19 through temperature checks and observation. If someone has symptoms, they must isolate.

Girl wearing mask at elementary graduation
AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File

The guidance still, however, leaves much of what schooling will look like up to each school district. For example, it says schools should implement a mix of in-person and remote classes, but there was no minimum amount of hours set by the state for in-person classes, NorthJersey.com reported.

“Our guide will begin to fill in the picture of what a safe education system will look like in the fall,” Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet said in a statement, according to the news site.

The state began work on the reopening plan back in May, taking input from educational and community leaders, over 300 superintendents and using information from a survey given to roughly 300,000 parents, the outlet said.

But Freehold Borough Superintendent Rocco Tomazic says the report leaves too many unanswered questions on how schools should proceed.

“Until I know how many kids I am allowed to put in a classroom, I cannot come up with the alternate schedule, that will become my one question on details,” Tomazic told NorthJersey.com. “If we mask them up, can we get less than the six feet?”

As the schools have less than two months to get ready for the first day of school, the guidance says they should form “restart committees” to come up with plans to submit to the state for approval and which should be given to staff and parents a month before the start, the outlet reported.

These plans will remain in place as long as the pandemic rages on. The school districts should also be prepared to go back to remote classes in case of another resurgence of the virus, the state said.

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