TRENTON, NJ - New Jersey schools will remain closed through the end of the school year.

Gov. Phil Murphy made the announcement at today's daily press briefing.

“This is a difficult decision and I know that many students, parents, and staff would like to be able to return to school,” Murphy said. “However, I have been unwavering on the message that we need to make decisions based on science, not emotion. And while New Jersey is making great strides in mitigating the spread of COVID-19, science tells us that at this point, we can’t safely re-open our schools.

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Schools were closed on March 18 per an executive order from Murphy. On April 7, Murphy extended the order to May 15th. The statewide closure is intended to impede the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and minimize social contact.

Schools statewide scrambled to implement distance learning measures, with teachers and students relying on the Internet for daily lessons.

New Jersey is the 45th state to shut down schools for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.

The governor's announcement comes after the New Jersey Education Association and other education groups wrote a letter last week encouraging Murphy to keep school doors closed for the rest of the year.

New Jersey Education Association president Marie Blistan reacted to Murphy's announcement:

“We commend Gov.  Murphy for making the right decision to keep school buildings closed for the remainder of the school year. While we are saddened to know that we won’t have the opportunity to see our students in our school buildings again this year, nothing is more important than the health and safety of everyone in our public schools. NJEA members will continue to do all we can to provide our students the best education and support possible under these very difficult circumstances, for as long as it takes to keep everyone safer in this pandemic. 

“We know this is an educational loss for students. The very best remote education is no substitute for the in-person instruction and peer interaction that helps our students learn and thrive. That loss is even greater for students who lack the resources to take full advantage of the online tools that are so important now. The decision to extend this closure through the remainder of the school year makes it even more imperative that districts address those inequities and do everything possible to overcome them. 

“Part of our state’s long-term recovery from this pandemic must include a commitment to help our students, and particularly our most vulnerable students, recover what has been lost by closing school buildings. We know that NJEA members, who have done such a great job of helping students navigate this current challenge, are committed to doing that. Together, we will be even stronger, more successful and more resilient once our school communities have the opportunity to be together again.”

“I commend Governor Murphy’s thoughtful, deliberative approach that takes into account the concerns of school administrators, teachers, and other stakeholders in the education community,” said Education Commissioner Lamont O. Repollet. “However, the most compelling factor guiding today’s decision is the health of New Jersey’s students and educators, and their families.”

The Administration will create a steering committee consisting of a diverse group of stakeholders in the education community to explore summer learning opportunities for all students, including school-sponsored summer programming and Extended School Year for students with disabilities. The committee will provide recommendations to the Administration as to which services need to continue to be provided remotely should the public health emergency extend past the conclusion of the 2019-2020 school year.

The committee will also explore approaches for the safest and most efficient re-opening of schools for the 2020-2021 school year.

In addition, the Department of Education will work with school officials to share ideas on safe and innovative ways to recognize 2020 high school graduates and other end-of-year milestones for students. 

Murphy's announcement also follows New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's decision last week to shutter schools. Pennsylvania ordered their schools closed almost a month ago.  Delaware shuttered their schools on April 24 while Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont is expected to make the decision for his state this week.

Remote learning will remain in place allowing education to continue. 

Spring sports are now effectively canceled; a disappointment to many athletes and parents.

The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association issued the following statement:

 “Following today’s announcement by Governor Murphy, the NJSIAA has officially canceled New Jersey’s 2020 high school spring sports season.  This decision was not made lightly, and we are disappointed for the thousands of New Jersey student-athletes who will be unable to compete this spring. While we remained hopeful to the end, and left open every possibility, competition simply is not feasible given the circumstances.

“The last few weeks have been heartbreaking on many levels, from the tragic loss of life, to thousands battling the virus, to millions who have suffered emotional and economic loss.  It’s been a harrowing time for everyone, and we know our student-athletes are extremely disappointed. That said, these unfortunate circumstances may have put an intriguing challenge in the path of our young people. As New Jersey’s own Vince Lombardi once said, “It's not whether you get knocked down, it's whether you get up. “  We’re confident all our kids will get back up and stand tall.

“The NJSIAA will continue developing plans for the potential restarting of scholastic sports during the fall season. Additional information related both to the summer recess and fall will be shared at a later date.”

Milestone events such as proms, graduations and other moving-up ceremonies will either occur virtually or be delayed to this summer or fall depending on when the state declares it is safe to gather in groups again. These decisions will be made individually by each school district.