NJDOE issues guidance for school districts on COVID-19

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Urban News Staff Reports

The New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) recently announced that it has issued
guidance to school districts related to the current outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

While the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in New Jersey remains low, the NJDOE has issued guidance to increase flexibility for districts to provide home instruction in the event of mandated public health
school closures related to COVID-19. Home instruction may include online instruction or through a
contract with a neighboring school district.

The guidance provides that “any day in which students impacted by a public health-related closure have access to home instruction services provided consistent with the guidance will count as a day in which the board of education has provided public school facilities toward its compliance with the 180-day requirement.” These public health-related closures of schools would be instituted following a written directive by either the New Jersey Department of Health or the health officer of the jurisdiction.

Given the evolving nature of this conversation statewide, Gov. Phil Murphy, Education
Commissioner Lamont O. Repollet, and Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli held a
conference call with several hundred public and private school superintendents.

Commissioner Repollet also met with school superintendents on Thursday afternoon to discuss school preparedness and planning in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak.

The NJDOE is asking each school district to develop a preparedness plan for the provision of home
instruction to students in the event of a closure. The preparedness plan should also address the
provision of appropriate special education and other services to students with disabilities and the
provision of school nutrition benefits or services to eligible students.

While there are no immediate plans to implement such a system, health officials may also call for a
tiered system of social distancing in schools, possibly limiting certain functions such as sports events and assemblies in order to limit the risk of exposure.

If a student or staff member is suspected to have been exposed to COVID-19, the chief school
administrator or authorized designee should immediately contact local health officials to discuss the
appropriate response, including possible dismissal of students or temporary closure.

“Our county offices of education are our boots on the ground. I am maintaining frequent direct contact with our Executive County Superintendents, so we ask that districts direct their questions to our county  offices of education. The better we communicate, the more efficiently we can disseminate factual and timely information,” said Commissioner Repollet, adding, “we must also do our part to combat infectious disease-related stigmas toward specific populations or nationalities. Bullying and harassment hurt everyone and we should all recommit to combating the spread of fear and misinformation about COVID-19.”

The New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH), published additional guidance for childcare
agencies and K-12 schools. The guidance is designed to address concerns among childcare centers,
school administrators, athletic coaches, teachers, and parents regarding the impact that COVID-19 may have on their communities. More information can be found on the NJDOH website.

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