Gov. Murphy ‘Fully Expects Schools In Person’ For September; Montclair Councilor Says Drop Lawsuits

Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday that he fully expects schools to be in person for September, adding that he would be “surprised and disappointed” if that is not the case.

Murphy made the statements on the same day that he announced teachers and other school staff would be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine beginning March 15.

Murphy also said he expects more schools to come back well before September — either in person or hybrid — before the 2020-21 school year ends, adding that he views the vaccine eligibility for teachers as “an accelerant, not a magic wand.”

According to Murphy, of the state’s 811 public-school districts, charter schools, renaissance schools, and schools for students with disabilities in the state, 110 are open for all-in-person instruction; 533 are open for hybrid instruction; 142 are all-remote; and 27 are using a mix of options across buildings

Schools in New Jersey that are in person or hybrid have been following these public health recommendations.

New Jersey has a goal to get 70% of the state’s population vaccinated in six months; over 2 million vaccines have already been administered. Murphy said by May almost everyone should be eligible to receive the vaccine.

“Gov. Murphy’s announcement that he is adding educators to the vaccine priority list is an important step toward New Jersey’s emergence from this pandemic,” said Marie Blistan, President, NJEA. “With nearly 1.4 million students and over 200,000 adults, one out of every six New Jersey residents is connected directly to our public schools. Count the families they go home to and no institution in our state directly connects to more individuals than our public schools. The sooner educators are vaccinated, the sooner our entire state is safer. We call on the administration to immediately extend that access to employees in higher education who are equally as exposed and equally as critical to fully reopening our state for in-person instruction. At every level, New Jersey educators have worked tirelessly to educate our students and have advocated tirelessly to protect them and our communities throughout this pandemic by demanding high standards for health and safety. We stand ready to work with the Murphy administration, other elected leaders, school districts and colleges to ensure that our members can access the promised vaccinations quickly and efficiently.”

Murphy said the state is anticipating roughly 70,000 doses of the newly approved, one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine to be delivered this week.

Montclair Councilor at Large Peter Yacobellis released a statement Monday in response to the news:

Now that Governor Murphy has cleared the way for Pre K-12 teachers to be eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, beginning March 15th, I urge all parties in Montclair to drop their respective lawsuits. It is time to come together, help teachers and other school workers navigate the logistics of obtaining these vaccines in their multiple forms and timelines and with consideration of those logistics and timelines, get our schools open for hybrid learning as soon as possible, understanding the limited time left in the school year.

Acknowledging that the single shot Johnson and Johnson vaccine may take some time to work its way into the system, I would also encourage the district and teachers union to look at the data and talk seriously about the level of protection that the first vaccine shot in the case of Pfizer and Moderna provides and consider making the first shot itself the precursor for re-opening rather than waiting for both, so that our children don’t lose any more time than is necessary.

All parties should continue to follow the guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control as well as state and local health officials.

State health commissioner Judy Persichilli said Monday that while one dose of the vaccine offers protection, there is no question that you need to receive both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine to be fully protected. She also urged residents not let their guard down.

“Viruses mutate a lot, and create a lot of variants, but this virus is transmitted through respiratory droplets,” said Persichilli, adding that masking and social distancing were all the more important to protect against any variants. She also cited how the flu was at the lowest level in years because of masking and hand washing. Persichilli said she did expect cases and hospitalizations to creep up again due to variants.

The Center for Disease Control warned yesterday that highly contagious variants of COVID-19 put the U.S. at risk for losing the gains it has made.

Click here to sign up for Baristanet's free daily emails and news alerts.