TRENTON, NJ – More than half the public school districts and private schools that are working with the state on drafting their reopening plans will start the school year with a hybrid model of in-person and remote learning, officials said Wednesday.
Gov. Phil Murphy said 434 school districts will be using the hybrid model, 242 will start with all-remote instruction, 68 will utilize in-person instruction and 22 others will use a combination of plans.
Although 250 or so school districts’ plans are still under review or have not yet been reviewed by officials, Murphy defended his administration’s decision to take a flexible approach to the start of the school year.
“I for one am really happy … that we’re not a monolithic school system, that we have the ability to be flexible, to deal with the variety of districts and their characteristics and their uniqueness and have those plans reviewed at such a minute district level as opposed to dealing with a huge monolithic reality that some places have,” he said at Wednesday’s COVID-19 briefing. “New York City has got that reality, for instance, and we don’t have that and I view that as an asset for us.”
Murphy came armed to the briefing with the news that Education Week – what he called the gold standard in such rankings – has listed New Jersey’s public schools as the best in the nation for the second year in a row.
Interim State Education Commissioner Kevin Dehmer detailed how the state is “light years ahead of where we were last spring,” when the outbreak of COVID-19 forced schools to close their doors and commence remote instruction in March.
Most of Dehmer’s talking points revolved around the influx of funding into the state’s educational system to address safety in schools and digital divide in remote instruction.
For instance, New Jersey schools are getting $310 million for K-12 education from the CARES Act. About 90% of that money will go to school districts, who will decide the best approach to address their COVID-19 issues, he said.
Dehmer said school districts are allocating about 25% of this funding to help put a computer in the hands of students studying remotely and provide them with wi-fi access.
He also pointed out that despite economic damage wrought by the health crisis and its effect on the budget, two-thirds of school districts will receive more funding from the state under the current stopgap budget than they did the previous year.
“As we move toward reopening and ensuring that same quality education to our students despite current challenges, some people said there should be a single set of rules handed down by the state,” Dehmer said. “A rigid, unbending, one-size-fits-all approach. That doesn’t work in a state as diverse as New Jersey. What does work is collaboration, adaptation and flexibility.”