New guidelines may bring back some normalcy for Fall

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UNSPLASH PHOTO COURTESY OF KIMBERLY FARMER

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announces that schools may reopen in the Fall. https://unsplash.com/license

Liam Umbs

After finishing the last months of the 2019-2020 school year virtually, an uncertainty over if students will return to schools in the fall has developed. Yet as the severity of the pandemic alleviates in New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy believes that the current conditions foreshadow the safe return to in-person schooling this fall. 

“This has been an unprecedented time for our students and educators, but we are pleased to announce that we anticipate the return to our classrooms in some capacity this fall,” Murphy said in his daily COVID-19 briefing. 

On Friday, June 26, Murphy and the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) released guidance regarding the reopening of schools for the 2020-2021 school year. Under the guidance, schools must strive for social distancing in classrooms, hallways, cafeterias and busses, set up a plan to screen students and faculty for COVID-19 symptoms, provide staggered meal times to encourage social distancing during lunch and increase the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting procedures. All teachers and other staff members will be required to wear masks; students will be encouraged to do so as well, but it will not be required. 

Murphy acknowledged that the new guidelines will impose unprecedented difficulties on schools.

“The return to school will pose challenges, but we are confident that New Jersey’s school districts can move forward in a way that best serves the needs of their district while also achieving a safe environment for students and staff,” Murphy said. 

While the new guidelines do require schools to carry out in-person education, there is flexibility built in so that school districts can adopt a combination of remote and in-person learning to ensure that social distancing standards will be met. Because New Jersey has over 600 school districts, each with vastly differing circumstances, having such flexibility is a necessity.

Senior Charlotte Frick of Wall is excited about the possibility of returning to school in the fall, but has mixed feelings about the social distancing requirements, which may be challenging to implement while maintaining a normal learning environment.

“Social distancing on buses will be difficult at times, especially for towns who have a large population of students. I also feel that distancing in classrooms will be difficult. One of the biggest things in our classes is group work. If we have to distance in classrooms, group work would be incredibly difficult,” Frick said. 

Incoming freshman Justin Longo of Middletown is nervous about starting high school during a pandemic, and said that the new guidelines will be especially challenging for the freshman class.

“I think that the new requirements will be difficult for the freshman class, especially because it’s hard to make friends from six feet apart,” Longo said. “I was really interested in a lot of different clubs and activities when I toured Communications, so it would be a shame to miss out on any of them. Still, public health and safety is more important than extracurriculars.”