At today’s COVID-19 press briefing, Gov. Phil Murphy and Secretary of Higher Education Zakiya Smith Ellis announced that later today, the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education (OSHE) will release guidance for colleges and universities to reopen for in-person instruction.
The guidance will focus on 10 key areas including: instruction, housing, computer labs, libraries, research and labs, student services, transportation, dining, study abroad and athletics.
“Each of these areas is supported by general safeguarding mandates, key precautionary measures, and a host of additional considerations to ensure that students, faculty and staff are protected as best as possible while on campus,” Murphy said.
Secretary of Higher Education Zakiya Smith Ellis said that throughout each stage of the state’s greater reopening plan, higher education institutions must observe social distancing measures such as keeping people six feet apart, sanitizing equipment and materials, hand washing, and accommodating individuals with symptoms or a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.
She added that students or faculty with elevated health risks must be given the opportunity to learn or teach virtually and that institutions must require face masks be worn in indoor spaces, and should strongly encourage face masks to be worn in outdoor spaces.
Institutions will also be responsible for developing their own testing protocols on campus.
Colleges and universities must submit a restart plan to OSHE at least 14 days before any staff or students return to campus.
“Colleges this summer and fall will not look the same as they did last year,” Smith Ellis said. “We are aiming to strike a balance between responsible public health considerations and the safe resumption of activities through a staged framework.”
She added that the guidance was developed with input from institutional leaders, students, faculty and staff and representatives from organized labor.
Additionally, Murphy said he is issuing an executive order today that will allow in-person clinical, lab, and hands-on programming at institutions of higher education to resume on July 1, subject to the institution’s submission of its restart plan. The order also allows for career and training schools to reopen on the same date.
“As we move forward in our restart and recovery, these institutions will play a huge role,” Murphy said. “They are where our future workforce is being created, and where many of the advances in life sciences, engineering, and other areas that will have a tremendous impact on our larger economy, are taking shape.”
“Colleges are diverse and contain a variety of people from different demographic groups and age ranges who are all interacting with one another,” Smith Ellis said. “So while some may think of students as being younger, we do need to be concerned about the precautions we have to take to ensure the safety of all in the campus environment.”
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