NEWARK, NJ — Newark’s protocol for how it will operate its schools come this fall is officially in writing as of Wednesday evening when the district released a 25-page document outlining new health and safety measures. 

The state, which continues to urge that New Jersey districts should open despite proposals for learning to continue remotely until October 31, released guidelines allowing all students to opt for an all-remote option last week. But for Newark students and school staff setting foot in school buildings on September 8, things will be “very different,” according to a note from Superintendent Roger León. 

“Every employee will be required to provide documentation of negative test results to return to in-person operations, and beyond that we will be implementing a retesting protocol as the year proceeds,” León said in the note. “We have new ingress procedures that will be required at every school and office location.”

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The new procedures are based on the state’s blueprint plan, “The Road Back,” which establishes basic measures like spacing desks six feet apart, mandatory face coverings for and maintaining social distancing on buses. Students entering Newark Public Schools will first step on footwear sanitizing mats while having their temperatures checked and sit at desks protected by clear three-sided partitions. 

Other changes this school year in Newark include staggered recess, a ban on in-person assemblies, electrostatic disinfecting and backpack misting machines and other social distancing and enhanced disinfection protocol. Physical education will be limited to individual activities, such as yoga. 

In Essex County, the teachers union is lobbying for districts to remain closed, citing the uncertainty that teachers and students will remain safe. Lawmakers have echoed their concerns. 

While little is currently known about remote learning’s impact on students, learning loss due to extended school closures is expected to be one of the major challenges for districts’ going forward. NPS said it will implement “Saturday Academies,” before- and after-school tutoring, extended school day support and extended classroom experiences. 

“While it is difficult to determine how steep the learning loss will be, in the absence of the data from the needs assessments, our goal is to minimize and mitigate,” the plan says. “We are confident that our teachers provided high-quality instruction via remote learning, but we also understand that some students will require additional support to catch up quickly.”

The plan details an all in-person, all-remote or hybrid scheduling option, but León said that additional guidance specific to each school would be available when principals return in early August. Those wishing to select full-time remote instruction must submit their consent form by August 14, according to the document, which adds that those parents and guardians should “be prepared to support their children’s active participation in all remote learning activities.”