#schoolsafety | Gov. Murphy Issues NJ School Reopening Rules Amid Coronavirus

NEW JERSEY – Gov. Phil Murphy, speaking during a Friday news conference, issued a list of rules and guidelines for reopening schools this fall amid the coronavirus outbreak. Murphy issued the rules as he announced 524 additional coronavirus cases and 44 more deaths (see the rules below; you can watch the live news conference here, below).

Murphy said he and Department of Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet were providing rules and guidance for reopening all grades, K-12, in schools during the governor’s briefing.

But Murphy also said the “switch could be flipped” to remote learning if there is a resurgence of the virus.

Here are the rules and guidelines:

  • Face coverings are required for teachers and staff.
  • Students are strongly encouraged to wear masks, but they must wear them if they can’t maintain 6 feet of distance.
  • Disinfecting and handwashing procedures must be established for buildings and buses.
  • Students should be placed 6 feet apart. Barriers should be installed and desks should face in one direction if distance rules can’t be followed.
  • Reading circles will be prohibited.
  • If social distancing can’t be maintained on buses, then drivers must ensure students should wear face coverings.
  • Screening policies must be imposed for students and staff if they have symptoms or they’ve been exposed to COVD-19.
  • Screening can include temperature checks.
  • Meal times must be staggered to allow for social distancing in shared cafeterias.
  • Schools should consider closing locker rooms
  • No self-service or buffets are allowed. Grab-and-go meals are allowed.
  • Recess must be staggered.
  • Playground equipment must be disinfected between groups.
  • School district reopening plans should include providing physical guides, such as tape on floors or sidewalks and signs on walls, to help ensure that staff and students remain at least 6 feet apart.
  • Students and staff with symptoms related to COVID-19 must be safely and respectfully isolated from others.
  • If a school district becomes aware that an individual who has spent time in a district facility tests positive for COVID-19, district officials must immediately notify local health officials, staff, and families of a confirmed case while maintaining confidentiality.
  • All school district administrators, school safety specialists, counselors and any other staff deemed appropriate by the school district, should be provided with information regarding the role of contact tracing in keeping school communities safe from the spread of the contagious disease.
  • School districts should collaborate with the local health department and engage their school nurses to develop contact tracing policies and procedures, as well as educate the broader school community on the importance of contact tracing.
  • School districts should encourage students to wear comfortable clothing and safe footwear to school so they can participate in physical education classes without needing to change.
  • All extracurricular activities must comply with applicable social distancing requirements and hygiene protocol.

The rest of the guidance can be found here.

Murphy said the guidance has been in the works for weeks and takes into account the “many differences” that exist between districts, whether they’re geographic, demographic or economic.

But he also left it up to districts as to how to apply these rules. Some districts have even talked about keeping the high schoolers in their districts at home while allowing K-8 to go to the school buildings.

“There is no one-size-fits-all guidance,” Murphy said.

Boards of education were given flexibility that “recognizes and respects” the differences between districts, he said.

This is a developing story. Patch will have more information as it comes in.

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