TRENTON, NJ — The state announced a pending set of guidelines are to come allowing school district to hold face-to-face summer school starting July 6, including extended school year and special education services. 

This guidance will allow school districts to provide robust programs in a safe environment and prepare students for the school year ahead, Gov. Phil Murphy said at the state’s daily press brief on Friday. It will also address concerns regarding New Jersey’s most vulnerable students, such as those with disabilities. 

“To be clear: It is left to the district to decide the best way to meet their students’ educational needs in a safe environment, whether that be in-person, remote or some form of hybrid,” Murphy said. 

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School closures due to the coronavirus stretched from mid-March to the end of the term, setting off a firestorm of issues from learning losses to canceled proms and graduation ceremonies for seniors. As districts, especially those in municipalities burdened by digital divide, scramble to catch their students up, the return of in-person signals slow steps toward recovery. 

In-person programs are permitted to begin on or after July 6 and must follow all applicable health and safety protocols, according to the DOE.  Districts that have planned for remote learning may still proceed with virtual instruction for both extended school year and other summer learning opportunities for students. 

“This is a crucial step that allows schools to plan summer learning programs and special education services that will provide assistance to those students who need it the most,” Education Commissioner Lamont O. Repollet said in a statement. 

The DOE said on Friday that learning strategies could include:

  • Traditional summer school
  • Extended year programming with individualized instruction for students with special needs
  • Credit-recovery programs that allow students to retake coursework or obtain credits needed for graduation;
  • Migrant education
  • Programs for English language learners; 
  • 21st Century Community Learning Centers that offer enrichment during non-school hours
  • Any additional summer learning opportunities that school districts may need to address learning loss and prepare students for the coming school year.

Nothing new was provided regarding whether students will be permitted to return to their brick-and-mortar schools in September, but Murphy has said he would like to see it happen. More guidance on the next school year is expected in the coming weeks. 

The move, Murphy said, comes as a result of the state’s transmission rates, which remain among some of the lowest in the nation. He touted his administration’s patience in reopening as a key factor in why New Jersey, which suffered the second-highest number of deaths and cases in the state, is now seeing lasting results while other states that rushed to reopen are seeing spikes. 

Phase 2 of the state’s reopening and recovery strategy, which begins Monday, will see outdoor dining and nonessential retail welcome back customers, albeit at limited capacity. Child care centers will also be permitted to open again.