At today’s state COVID-19 press briefing, Gov. Phil Murphy announced that the state Departments of Health and Education will be releasing revised guidance for local health departments regarding K-12 in-class operations based on the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Full-time, in-person instruction can begin in classrooms, with student distancing reduced from 6 feet to 3 feet, if masking and frequent handwashing is maintained by students, educators and support staff.
“This updated social distancing guidance applies to all elementary grade levels across all levels of community of transmission risk. It also applies to middle school and high school grades at lower and moderate risk levels,” Murphy said.
In communities where the rates of transmission are listed as high, 6-foot distancing, “to the maximum extent practicable,” will remain the standard social distancing measure for middle and high schools, the governor said.
For all schools, regardless of grade or risk factor, 6 feet social distancing will be maintained for all indoor common areas when masking is not an option, such as when students are eating and drinking in a school cafeteria.
“With this guidance being released, now is the time for all of our schools to move forward with a return to in-person instruction, whether it be full-time or through a hybrid schedule,” Murphy said.
Schools that have implemented successful mitigation strategies, allowing them to open fully, “may generally continue to follow those strategies,” Department of Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said.
When asked if parents will have the option of having their children learn virtually come September, even if schools are ordered to conduct in-person education, Murphy responded, “As we are sitting here now, no! I want to be unequivocal about this. We are expecting Monday through Friday, in-person, every school, every district.”
As of today, 143 schools are open for in-person instruction (96,926 students); 534 are open for hybrid learning (833,095 students); and 90 are all remote (301,856 students).
In other news, Gov. Murphy said he will sign an executive order exempting American Rescue Plan stimulus payments from garnishment by creditors and other debt collectors.
Working alongside the New Jersey Department of Banking & Insurance, the New Jersey Bankers Association and the CrossState Credit Union Association, 49 banks and credit unions in the state are already supporting the measure.
“We want those who receive [stimulus] funds to put them to use as they deem necessary. We don’t think that is an out-of-line desire and we are happy that numerous institutions agree with us,” Murphy said.
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