N.J. coronavirus update: Murphy expects full-time, in-person learning next school year

Desks are spaced out 6-feet apart in a classroom at Camden Prep, a charter school in Camden, New Jersey. (Avi Wolfman-Arent/WHYY)

Desks are spaced out 6-feet apart in a classroom at Camden Prep, a charter school in Camden, New Jersey. (Avi Wolfman-Arent/WHYY)

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New Jersey officials reported Wednesday an additional 4,607 confirmed COVID-19 cases, raising the overall total to 848,876 cases. The rate of transmission is currently at 1.05. State officials are expecting that number to go up in the next few days.

As of 10 p.m. Tuesday, there are 1,895 hospitalizations, 407 patients are in critical or intensive care, and 231 are on ventilators.

Gov. Phil Murphy said his administration expects schools to return to full-time, in-person instruction when the 2021-2022 school year begins in September. Noting that remote learning has not worked for all students, the governor said that keeping students and educators out of the physical classroom is not going to move them forward.

“We know there are students across our state who have fallen behind due to the burden and stress of remote learning,” Murphy said, “and it is time to stem this tide before more students fall away.”

Acting State Education Commissioner Angelica Allen-McMillan added that time away from the classroom is detrimental for students.

“The more time a student spends away from in-person instructional time, the greater the risk of learning loss and of social, emotional, and mental health impacts for our students,” she said, adding that English language-learners, students of color, and students with disabilities will be among those who bear the brunt of the setbacks that she notes “will not be spread evenly among all students.”

New Jersey will receive $2.8 billion from the American Rescue Plan to help with reopening schools. In addition, the state Department of Education is inviting districts to apply for a piece of the $1.2 billion made available by the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Fund.

It’s been a year since the governor ordered all buildings closed and schools started conducting remote learning. Murphy pushed for schools to open the current academic year with in-person instruction, but allowed schools to open remotely if they are not able to do so after getting pressure from legislators and teachers.

The majority of school districts in the state provide hybrid instruction. The second-largest group of districts is open for in-person instruction. Less than 100 provide all-remote learning while under 40 are using a combination.

Since August, there have been 800 confirmed COVID-19 cases that have been attributed to in-school transmission.

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