Gov. Phil Murphy today provided an update on the landscape of what school instruction will look like this fall, revealing that, as of today, 434 school districts are using a hybrid model of learning, 242 districts are going all-remote, 68 districts are using in-person instruction. An additional 22 districts plan to use various combinations of instruction that vary from facility to facility within the district.
“We now have restarted our retail stores, restaurants and indoor entertainment and recreational activities all with appropriate safeguards,” Murphy said. “With the restart of our economy now more fully underway, our attention turns to the restart of our schools. This is one of our most sacred and precious responsibilities.”
With such a significant amount of schools operating with remote-learning in some capacity, Interim Commissioner of the Department of Education Kevin Dehmer said that later this week, the Department of Education plans to make resources available to both families and schools to assist with technology-based instruction.
“We want to help educators with the training they need to effectively engage with their students, and we also want to make sure parents and families know how to use the technology that links them with the school,” he said.
As Murphy has said many times, a theme throughout New Jersey’s school reopening plan has been to provide flexibility to all districts, as there is no one-size-fits-all plan given the unprecedented circumstances surrounding the school year.
$310 million have been allocated through the CARES Act for K-12 education in New Jersey, and according to Dehmer, 90% of that money will go directly to school districts for them to decide the best approach to address their COVID-19 issues.
He added that school districts are allocating approximately 25% of the funding to bridge the digital divide.
“To help school districts and ensure they are able to close the technology gap, in July the governor announced up to $60 million in targeted funds for the Digital Divide Grant to help schools provide students with the technology they need,” Dehmer said.
Additionally, Murphy’s revised budget includes more than $8.7 billion in direct aid to schools, with 2/3rds of school districts receiving more funding than they did the previous year.
“We are confident that the [safeguard] steps we have in place will make the kind of chaotic situations we have seen in other states far less likely to happen in ours,” Murphy said, adding that the state also has specific health guidance in place for what to do when a case or cluster of cases arises in a school. “I think it is fair to say that we are ready.”
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