TRENTON, NJ -- Leadership for Educational Excellence (LEE), a coalition of the state’s major education organizations dedicated to the education and welfare of New Jersey students, has written a letter urging Gov. Phil Murphy to keep Executive Order 107 in effect, as it applies to school closings, through the month of June — that is, for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.

The educational leaders, who represent all stakeholder groups in K-12 public education, wrote that they are in complete agreement the governor's plan, “The Road Back: Restoring Economic Health Through Public Health,” released on April 27 that detailed his approach to reopening the state.

Related: Coronavirus: Gov. Murphy Unveils 6-Point Plan for Reopening NJ; No Timetable for Lifting Social Distancing

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"Considering the six principles/metrics in the plan and current data on the incidence of COVID-19, the LEE group does not believe that districts will be in the position to reopen during the current school year," the education leaders wrote. "We are especially concerned about recent statements indicating that schools may still reopen this spring. It sends a mixed message to students, parents and educators."

Reopening schools presents serious challenges that are far more complex than even those involved in closing schools and moving to online instruction. These include, but are certainly not limited to, readjusting curriculum, designing remediation for students who may have fallen behind during the closure, and accommodating social distancing and other preventive measures in the classroom, in cafeterias and gymnasiums, on school buses, and during extra-curricular activities.

Above all else, parents, students and school staff must be assured that health will not be compromised when schools reopen. The current data do not indicate that we can provide such assurance if schools reopen in the spring. Addressing these challenges will require thoughtful planning and must involve all segments of the education community. 

The educators believe it is in the best interests of students that the LEE organizations be involved in the establishment of criteria to reopen schools and in the state’s plan to guide the process.

"The leaders of the LEE organizations offer our expertise and perspective as New Jersey continues to face this public health emergency," they wrote. "We urge you to ensure that our member organizations are involved in state-level discussions of the reopening of schools... It is only through a thoughtful, collaborative conversation on these complex issues that we will reach the best decision for New Jersey’s students and the entire school community."

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