School Reopening Frequently Asked Questions
These questions and answers are meant to supplement information provided in The Road Back, the Department’s reopening guidance for schools, which outlines anticipated minimum standards to which districts must comply in developing reopening plans. A checklist that the Department will use in reviewing plans may also be useful to districts in determining the necessary components of reopening plans.
- Clarifying Expectations for Students with Disabilities (updated 11/12)
- Student Attendance in Remote Learning Environments for the 2020-2021 School Year
- Remote Learning Monitoring
- Face Coverings
- Screening and Testing
- Social Distancing
- Contact Tracing Responsibilities and Procedures
- Plan Development and Submission
- Special Education
Clarifying Expectations for Students with Disabilities
- Are students with disabilities required to wear face coverings in school buildings and school buses?
Yes. However, there may be an exception if a student’s medical condition or disability precludes the use of a face covering in a school building and/or on a school bus. If a parent/guardian of a student with a disability believes the use of a face covering would not be possible for the child because of the child’s disability, the parent should provide documentation from the child’s healthcare provider to the student’s case manager or school principal. Face coverings must be worn by all students on a school bus unless wearing a face covering would inhibit the student’s health. Districts are encouraged to discuss the use of face coverings with families of students with disabilities. Districts should be encouraging families to have students practice wearing and safely removing face coverings. More information about face coverings is available in the NJDOE Restart & Recovery Plan - School Reopening FAQ.
Resources regarding the use of face coverings for students with disabilities, including the use of positive behavioral interventions and supports, is available at: njbs.org. Information regarding the use of masks by students with Autism Spectrum Disorder is available at autismnj.org.
- Must the use of face coverings be included in a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan?
Face coverings are required for all students, including students with disabilities, except in the circumstances delineated in EO No.175. Although it is not required that the wearing of a face covering be included in the IEP, the IEP team may convene to discuss any special considerations or strategies to acclimate a student to a face covering and other social distancing practices as an IEP goal and/or part of a student’s Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP). Case managers should consider reaching out to each student’s parent to discuss the student’s needs with regard to health and safety protocols. Case managers should check in with parents periodically to discuss any changing needs.
- What face coverings are appropriate for students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing?
For students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, the selection of an appropriate face covering should be made on an individual basis considering the need for full access to communication. Individuals who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, regardless of mode of communication, rely on visual access to the speaker’s face during communication, whether it is from speechreading, facial expressions, or non-manual markers used by signers. Clear face coverings (not clear face shields) provide greater visual access than standard face coverings. Teachers, interpreters, service providers and others who work with a student who is Deaf or Hard of Hearing may need a clear face covering to be able to communicate effectively with the student
However, it is important to keep in mind that access to speech will be distorted when wearing face coverings, especially when coupled with social distancing. As a result, additional accommodations may be necessary. While wearing face coverings, appropriate amplification should be available in classrooms, including both personal systems for students needing more direct input as well as sound fields or a form of classroom audio distribution system (CADS) when indicated.
Case managers and parents, and students, if appropriate, should discuss face coverings and needed accommodations to ensure that required health and safety protocols are met for each student. Students who rely more on visual cues, such as signing and speechreading, may prefer clear face coverings, while those who rely more on listening might find clear face coverings to muffle sound too much. More information regarding the auditory effects of a variety face coverings may be found in the American Academy of Audiology’s “More Speech Degradations and Considerations in the Search for Transparent Face Coverings During the COVID-19 Pandemic” and The Moog Center’s “The Effects of Face Coverings and Remote Microphone Technology on Speech Perception in the Classroom.”
Wearing a face covering with hearing aids can sometimes be difficult. Tips on wearing face coverings with hearing aids can be found in Boys Town National Research Hospital’s “How to Wear a Face Mask with Your Hearing Aids” and Starkey Hearing’s “Face Mask Tips for Hearing Aid Wearers” video.
- Are contracted-transportation providers subject to the same minimum standards required of school districts?
Yes. Contracted transportation providers must ensure that students wear face coverings while being transported unless doing so would inhibit the student’s health. Transportation providers are also required to ensure that students adhere to social distancing requirements during transportation to and from school, and are required to adhere to the vehicle cleaning and disinfecting protocols set forth in The Road Back plan and the updated health and safety guidance released on August 3, 2020 found here: The Road Back. Additional information from the CDC may be found here: CDC.
- Are districts required to provide transportation to a student with a disability attending an out-of-district placement for in-person instruction if the district is not offering in-person instruction currently or if the district’s hybrid schedule is different from the out-of-district placement’s schedule?
Yes. Transportation to and from an out-of-district placement for a student with a disability is a related service that is included in the student’s IEP. The district is responsible for providing transportation to the student’s out-of-district placement if the student will be receiving in-person instruction at the out-of-district placement even if the district itself is not providing in-person instruction to students or is on a hybrid schedule that differs from the out-of-district placement’s schedule.
- Does a student’s IEP have to be amended if the student is receiving remote instruction as part of the district’s remote, in-person, or hybrid reopening plan?
A district is not required to amend a student’s IEP to address the delivery of remote instruction as part of a district’s reopening plan. Consistent with the guidance issued by the United States Department of Education (USED) at the start of the COVID-19 global pandemic, schools are required to implement student IEPs “to the greatest extent possible” during periods in which in-person instruction is not provided.
However, if the student’s IEP team determines the student will require additional supports and/or services, the IEP team may follow the IEP amendment process, which includes providing the student’s parent/guardian a written description of the proposed amendment or convene to review the IEP. For additional information about fulltime remote learning, including information about planning for the anticipated return to in-person instruction, go to: Fulltime Remote Learning Options.
- Does a student’s IEP have to be amended if the student is receiving remote instruction at the request of the student’s parent/guardian under the district’s fulltime remote learning program?
A district is not required to amend a student’s IEP following a request from the student’s parent/guardian to have the student participate in the district’s fulltime remote learning program so long as the student’s IEP team determines the student’s IEP can be implemented, to the greatest extent possible, through the delivery of fulltime remote learning. A parental request to have a student participate in the district’s fulltime remote learning program does not, by itself, automatically require an IEP amendment if the student’s IEP team determines the IEP can be implemented to the greatest extent possible during the remote learning period.
However, if the student’s IEP team determines the student will require additional supports and/or services, the IEP team must follow the IEP amendment process, which includes providing the student’s parent/guardian a written description of the proposed amendment and may require a meeting of the IEP team. More information about the IEP amendment process is available at: NJ State Special Education Regulations.
Districts are encouraged to document parental requests for student participation in fulltime remote learning programs. Districts are encouraged to notify, in writing, parents/guardians of students with disabilities that a request to participate in the district’s fulltime remote learning program has been granted and that the district will continue to implement the student’s IEP to the greatest extent possible during the period in which the student is participating in the district’s fulltime remote learning program. Districts are encouraged to notify, in writing, parents/guardians that implementation of the student’s IEP under the district’s fulltime remote learning program as requested by the student’s parent/guardian does not require an IEP amendment or an IEP team meeting if the IEP team determines the student’s IEP can be implemented through fulltime remote learning. Additional information can be found here.
- How is access to communication provided to students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing during remote learning?
Students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing continue to require communication access during remote instruction, which might include educational sign language interpreters, closed captioning, and/or access to Hearing Assistive Technology (HAT) such as FM/DM systems and classroom audio distribution system (CADS). Students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing cannot take notes while watching captioning or sign language interpreters; therefore, they might require the provision of a copy of the teacher’s notes prior to class, written transcripts, PowerPoint notes, and/or recordings of lessons after class. It is important to note that CARES act funding may be used to purchase specialized equipment needed for instruction with student’s with disabilities including student’s who are deaf or hard of hearing. Additional information can be found here: NJDOE Policy and Funding.
Educational Sign Language Interpreters
Interpreters should be included during online lessons and during videos to the best extent possible, as indicated in the student’s IEP or 504 Plan.
General information for using a sign language interpreter and managing the people on the screen can be found in this YouTube video, “Interpreters” by Jeff Pollock.
For students with IEPs or 504 plans that indicate closed captioning for videos, remote lessons may be considered videos and therefore closed captioning should be provided for access to instruction and general communication.
For all students who rely on listening and spoken language, adding captioning might be necessary for lessons and videos in order to adjust for the reduction in acoustical clarity that may occur when using technology in lieu of in-person communication.
Additional accommodations might be required for students whose reading levels preclude them from fully accessing closed captioning.
Closed captioning would not take the place of an interpreter. A combination of interpreting services and closed captioning may be required to ensure full access to instructional content. A summary of frequently asked question about closed captioning by the National Deaf Center can be found here.
Instruction and Services
- What is the role of the student’s IEP team prior to and during the period in which students are receiving instruction under the district’s remote and/or hybrid reopening plan?
IEP teams should review student data and student progress to determine whether critical skills were lost during the period (March 2020-June 2020) in which school buildings were ordered closed to in-person instruction. When reviewing student data/student progress, IEP teams should determine the need for additional services to address learning loss or the need to make up for services not provided when school buildings were closed. As districts are developing additional services or programs to address learning loss, IEP teams should ensure access to these programs for student’s with disabilities as appropriate.
During periods of all-remote instruction, IEP teams must continue to report on student progress towards IEP goals and objectives. IEP teams should consider using various methods of collecting student progress data, such as online assessments, remote/virtual student observations and curriculum-based assessments. IEP teams should also review data collected prior to the suspension of in-person instruction in March 2020 as well as data collected during remote instruction during the 2019-2020 school year (March–June 2020) to inform instructional planning and monitor progress for the 2020-2021 school year.
Instructional strategies and resources to support students with disabilities are available in the Resources: Continuity of Learning section of The Restart & Recovery Plan: The Road Back.
To assist educators and IEP teams with assessing students to give an early indication of the level of supports needed for the school year, the Department of Education has made available a suite of START STRONG snapshot assessments and related resources. To help support students with significant intellectual disabilities, the Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM) and the NJDOE are offering the use of DLM’s instructionally embedded (IE) assessments in the fall of 2020. These IE assessments may be used by educators to better understand their students’ instructional needs for the 2020-2021 school year. The IE assessments are aligned to essential elements on which the student’s 2020-2021 instruction will be based and can be used to gather baseline data and guide instruction. Use of the IE assessments is optional and has no impact on the required year-end, summative DLM assessment that is administered to students each spring. Additional information for both sets of assessments may be found here.
- Are districts required to adhere to class or group size limits during the period of remote instruction?
Yes. The class and group size limits set forth in the New Jersey special education regulations have not been waived or amended. Districts must abide by the class and group size limits regardless of whether the district is providing in-person instruction, remote instruction, or a hybrid as part of its reopening plan. More information about class and group size limits is available in the NJ Special Education Regulations.
- Are districts required to comply with initial evaluation/triennial reevaluation timelines even if the district is beginning the school year with all-remote instruction?
Yes. The requirements for timelines and activities related to referral, identification, and evaluation remain in effect. Therefore, districts must complete evaluations/reevaluations within the timelines set forth by law and regulations even if the district is delivering solely remote instruction. It is recommended that the evaluation team and/or evaluator, the student (if appropriate), and the parent discuss the appropriate location of the evaluation when a district is on a hybrid or all-remote schedule.
There are many assessments that do not require in-person face-to-face interaction or observation and those may still be completed on remote school days as long as the parent is in agreement. Districts are permitted to conduct in-person evaluations of students even if districts are delivering all-remote instruction and not offering in-person instruction. Districts are encouraged to consider the location in which the services will be provided in the school building, transportation, including entry to and exit from the school facility, face coverings, and social distancing measures to be followed by the student and individual evaluator. If an evaluation requires a face-to-face assessment or observation and the school district is on a full-time remote schedule, pursuant to guidance issued by USDE on September 28, 2020 “during the pandemic, social distancing measures and each child’s individual disability-related needs may make administering some in-person evaluations impracticable and may place limitations on how evaluations and reevaluations are conducted under IDEA Part B.” Additional information may be found here.
- Should districts report the special education placement of students participating in virtual instruction as home instruction in the NJ Smart October 15, 2020 submission?
No. Districts should report the placement of the student as indicated in their Individual Education Program (IEP). Only a student whose program and placement, as required by the IEP, is home instruction should be reported as receiving home instruction in the NJ Smart submission.
- What does the least restrictive environment (LRE) look like when determining how to deliver student programs and services in remote or a hybrid environment?
A brief from the National Association of State Directors of Special Education highlights that, “while the COVID-19 pandemic has not changed the individual student’s right to LRE, it has changed how the general education system operates. These operational changes require school systems to determine how they will maintain each individual student’s LRE in the new context in which they are operating.” IEP teams should consider how to maximize inclusion in the least restrictive environments to the greatest extent possible when developing remote and hybrid delivery models for individual students. The following resource provides two examples of LRE considerations around remote, hybrid, and traditional in-person learning environments.
Susan is in a third-grade class with 26 students this school year. She receives 60 minutes a day of special education services in the general education classroom in mathematics and English Language Arts (ELA). She also receives 30 minutes, three times per week, of speech-language therapy outside of the general education classroom under the disability classification of specific learning disability. Susan’s local community has experienced an outbreak of COVID-19 in recent weeks and is considering transitioning to a different operational model outlined in their reopening plan. Susan’s IEP will be implemented and free appropriate public education (FAPE) provided in each operational model.
School Operation Models
Table 1: School Operation Models
Students will use a distance/remote platform for educational services. Students will follow an alternating schedule to reduce the number of students on campus and in each classroom. Students will report to school two days a week with social distancing procedures in place and will use a virtual platform three days a week. Students will report to school five days per week with social distancing protocols in place.
Table 2: LRE Considerations for Susan
Susan will participate in a virtual learning model with her general education third-grade class. Her special education teacher will host a small group virtual break-out session with her and other students in ELA and mathematics after large-group instruction (or provide supports during the large-group instruction). She will participate in a 3 weekly virtual speech session. While on campus, Susan’s third-grade class will be split into two sections. Susan will remain in one classroom all day with her peers. Her teachers will rotate as appropriate. Her special education teacher will provide 60 minutes of support in mathematics and ELA each day while Susan is on campus and follow the distance learning model the other three days. She will participate in 3 weekly virtual speech sessions. Susan will receive her special education services inside her general education classroom. She will receive speech services outside of the general education classroom 3 times a week.
Eddy is in the 10th grade this year. He receives 240 minutes a day of special education services outside of the general education classroom. He receives 60 minutes a week of speech-language therapy outside of the general education classroom under the disability classification of Autism.
During his 10th grade year, Eddy is scheduled to take the following courses:
- English III
- Business Math
- Journey to Careers
- Animal Science
- Study Skills
Eddy’s local community has experienced an outbreak of COVID-19 in recent weeks and is considering multiple operational models for the 2020-21 school year.
School Operation Models
Table 3: School Operation Models
Students will use a distance/remote platform for educational services. Students will follow an alternating schedule to reduce the number of students on campus and in each classroom. Students will report to school two days a week with social distancing procedures in place and will use a virtual platform three days a week. Students will report to school five days a week with social distancing protocols in place.
Table 4: LRE Considerations for Eddy
Eddy will participate in virtual English III, Business Math, Biology and Civics classes outside of the general education classroom led by a special education teacher with support from the general education content teachers. He will participate in PE, Health, Journey to Careers, Animal Science, and Study Skills inside the virtual general education classroom with support from a special education instructional aide. He will participate in two virtual speech therapy sessions a week outside of the general education classroom. While on campus, Eddy will participate in English III, Business Math, Biology, and Civics classes outside of the general education classroom led by a special education teacher with support from the general education content teachers. He will participate in PE, Health, Journey to Careers, Animal Science, and Study Skills inside the virtual general education classroom with support from a special education instructional aide. He will participate in two virtual speech therapy sessions a week outside of the general education classroom. Eddy will participate in English III, Business Math, Biology, and Civics classes outside of the general education classroom led by a special education teacher with support from the general education content teachers. He will participate in PE, Health, Journey to Careers, Animal Science, and Study Skills inside the general education classroom with support from a special education instructional aide. He will participate in two in-person speech therapy sessions a week outside of the general education classroom.
- What resources are available to support inclusion in the Least Restrictive Environment when conducting lessons in remote or hybrid environments?
The NJIETA (New Jersey Inclusive Education Technical Assistance) Project, a partnership among the New Jersey Department of Education, Montclair University, and the New Jersey Coalition for Inclusive Education, has been established to promote and support the development of inclusive practices within school. A list of resources on Distance and Hybrid Learning for Parents, Educators, and Administrators is available at: www.njieta.org/resources.
- Are districts able to continue to deliver related services through the use of remote or virtual platforms when buildings reopen for in-person instruction?
Yes. In accordance with the emergency special education regulations adopted by the New Jersey State Board of Education on April 1, 2020, schools are permitted to deliver related services to students with disabilities through telemedicine, telehealth, or through electronic communications, which include virtual, remote, or other online platforms for as long as the COVID-19 public health emergency (Executive Order No. 103) remains in effect.
- Can a district provide in-person related services to a student with a disability whose parent or guardian has requested that the student participate in the district’s full-time remote learning program?
Yes. The parent(s)/guardian(s) of a student with a disability may request fulltime remote learning, which may include the programs and services that would have been provided to the student in-person. Parent(s)/guardian(s) may request that the student receive programs and services entirely remotely or may request some services, including related services, e.g., occupational therapy (OT), physical therapy (PT), speech-language services, be provided to the student in-person or under a hybrid of remote and in-person.
IEP teams are encouraged to maintain regular communication with families of these students with disabilities to ensure that the student receives the related services, especially the type, frequency and duration of services, required by the student’s IEP. IEP teams are encouraged to consider providing related services and/or needed evaluations for students with disabilities in school buildings, if appropriate. Consideration should be given to the location of where the services will be provided, transportation, including entry to and exit from the school facility, face coverings, and social distancing measures to be followed by the student and individual related service provider or evaluator.
- What type of nursing services are districts required to provide to students who are participating in a fulltime remote learning program?
Districts are required to implement a student’s IEP to the greatest extent possible during the period in which the student is receiving special education and related services through remote or virtual instruction. For a student whose IEP includes the provision of nursing services during the school day to enable the student to access his or her educational program, the district may be required to provide nursing services in the student’s home. It is the role of the student’s IEP team to decide which related services, including nursing services, the student needs in order to receive a FAPE. The student’s IEP team, which includes the student’s parent(s)/guardian(s), determines the type, frequency and duration of the related services provided to the student. For a student who is participating in a district’s fulltime remote learning program, the IEP team may also have to consider the location of where related services, including nursing services if required, will be provided to the student.
- What resources are available to support the provision of related services to and evaluation of students with disabilities in remote or virtual environments?
Districts are required to provide related services as outlined in a student’s IEP to the greatest extent possible. These services include counseling, speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy. The delivery of these services in a remote or virtual environment poses different challenges depending on the type of service required by the IEP. The state professional organizations for school psychologists, speech and language practitioners, occupational therapists, and physical therapists each provide guidance to their respective professional groups to support the delivery of these related services in remote or virtual environments. Below are links to each professional organization’s guidance documents:
- APTANJ Guidance for School Based Physical Therapists Regarding the Reopening of Schools under Covid-10 (American Physical Therapy Association of New Jersey)
- School-Based Occupational Therapy Services during Health Emergencies – DOE Reference (New Jersey Occupational Therapy Association (NJOTA))
- School-Based Speech Language Pathology Services During Emergency Situations: A Guide for Practitioners and Districts (New Jersey Speech-Language Hearing Association (NJSHA))
- Updated Guidance on Evaluation (New Jersey Association of School Psychologists (NJASP))
Behavioral and Social Emotional Learning Supports
- How can districts support student behaviors and the social emotional learning (SEL) needs of students with disabilities during the period in which students are participating in a full or partial remote learning program?
Case managers and IEP team members must be aware of the behavioral supports in student IEPs and should communicate effective strategies to parents/guardians to support students during remote learning. In order to support students and their families, districts may consider the following activities:
- Conducting webinars focusing on effective behavior support techniques;
- Providing social skill stories and self-regulation practices for students;
- Suggesting use of smart phone applications for mindfulness;
- Providing information, resources or consultation to parents to assist with the implementation of behavior interventions and strategies at home; and
- Coordinating with community-based agencies and Care Management Organizations (CMO’s)to assist, as appropriate.
More information about academic, social, and behavioral supports is available in the NJDOE’s
“The Road Back: Restart and Recovery Plan for Education” and on the “Helping Schools Build Systems of Support” webpage from the Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities.
- What role can paraprofessionals and aides play in supporting students with disabilities during periods of remote learning?
It is the role of the student’s IEP team to decide which services, including supports provided by a paraprofessional and/or aide, the student needs in order to receive a FAPE. Instructional paraprofessionals and aides assisting students with disabilities must be under the direct supervision of a certified teacher or other certified professional designated as primarily responsible for instructional planning for the student. The use and deployment of paraprofessionals and aides to support students with disabilities during remote learning is a district determination and must be made in accordance with each student’s IEP.
Student Attendance in Remote Learning Environments for the 2020-2021 School Year
Attendance and Length of School Day
- What currently counts as a school day?
Under N.J.A.C. 6A:32-8.3(e) and Executive Order (E.O.) No. 175, a school day, whether in-person or remote, must consist of at least four (4) hours of active instruction, exclusive of recess periods or lunch periods, and which may include synchronous and/or asynchronous instruction to students by an appropriately certified teacher. One continuous session of two and one-half hours may be considered a full day in kindergarten, pursuant to N.J.A.C. 6A:32-8.3, but a full school day of kindergarten must be at least four hours long in districts formerly designated as Abbott school districts. Districts must also ensure that the requirements set forth in N.J.S.A. 18A:7F-9 for a 180-day school year are met. Finally, per
N.J.S.A. 18A:35-4.31 districts must provide a daily recess period of at least 20 minutes for students in grades kindergarten through 5.
- Is the attendance guidance provided in the March 13, 2020 memo, “Supplemental Guidance Regarding Requirements for Public Health-Related School Closure” applicable for the 2020-2021 school year?
No. Districts are required to develop clear methods for determining and recording the daily attendance of students in remote learning environments. Per N.J.A.C. 6A:32-8.3(i), a student must be recorded as present, absent or excused for religious observance every day the school is in session and the student is enrolled. E.O. No. 175 requires that district policies for attendance accommodate opportunities for asynchronous instruction, which may necessitate that districts delay recording daily attendance for students in remote learning environments.
Districts policies and procedures regarding attendance, whether for students on school premises or in remote learning environments, must comply with regulations at N.J.A.C. 6A:16-7.6. Further, districts are obligated to provide for the early detection of missing and abused children per N.J.S.A. 18A:36-25.
- How should attendance be tracked and recorded for a student in a school offering four (4) hours of instruction, either in person or remotely?
The recording and attendance policies set forth in the in NJAC 6A:32-8.1 et seq. have not been waived or amended as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Districts should continue to implement existing policies regarding recording and attendance for all students, whether they are attending remotely or in person.
Thus, District policies for attendance in remote learning environments should consider methods for verifying student attendance sufficient to comply with NJAC 6A:32-8.3(k) in order to record the student as present for the day. Districts may employ multiple ways to determine whether a student in a remote learning environment is present or absent, including attending check-ins through internet or telephone, logging in to online learning platforms, or monitoring student submission of assignments. Consistent with E.O. No. 175, when determining attendance policies for remote instruction, districts must consider both the number of instructional hours in a school day as well as student participation in instruction.
- Does the four (4) hour school day requirement include time for lunch and recess?
No. According to N.J.A.C. 6A:32-8.3(e) a school day is considered a full day only if school is in session for four hours or more, exclusive of recess periods or lunch periods. Per N.J.S.A. 18A:35-4.31 districts must provide a daily recess period of at least 20 minutes for students in grades kindergarten through 5. Breaks from instruction, including face covering breaks in accordance with the Department’s updated guidance, may be considered recess.
- How should districts determine if a preschool student enrolled in a district-operated preschool program and in a remote learning environment is present?
The Department encourages districts to rely on the use of technology for no more than one (1) hour per day for preschool. As such, districts should consider relying on asynchronous methods for taking attendance, such as the submission of artifacts of student learning, in addition to synchronous methods, such as participation through phone or internet in daily meetings, when determining attendance policies for preschool students in remote learning environments.
- How many school days must a district be in session during the 2020-2021 school year?
As stated in E.O. No. 175, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:7F-9, districts must be in session for 180 days.
- How should districts address parental concerns regarding student engagement during the four (4) hour requirement for synchronous remote learning?
Pursuant to N.J.S.A.18A:38-25, all parents and caregivers remain responsible for ensuring that their child regularly attends school. Per E.O. No. 175, districts must accommodate synchronous and asynchronous instruction, which offers scheduling flexibility to parents and caregivers. In addition, districts are encouraged to consider resources and strategies available to support student engagement, which may include implementing a multi-tiered system of support designed to address specific needs of the local school community. Refer to the Department’s Restart and Recovery Plan: The Road Back for more information regarding multi-tiered systems of support.
Instruction Provided to Students in Remote Learning Environments
- Can school districts provide remote instruction under the amendments to N.J.S.A. 18A:7F-9, P.L.2020, c.27 (A3904) in circumstances of inclement weather?
Yes. N.J.S.A. 18A:7F-9, as amended by P.L. 2020, c. 27, permits the use of virtual or remote instruction to meet the minimum 180-day school year requirement if schools are closed for three consecutive days due to a state of emergency, public health emergency, or a directive from a health agency or officer to implement a public health closure. Because schools were closed for the requisite three-day period pursuant to the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency in the spring, all provisions of P.L. 2020, c. 27, including the ability to count days of remote instruction towards the required 180 days of school, remain in effect. This provision applies to days on which remote instruction is provided due to inclement weather.
Data Collection and Reporting Requirements
- What changes are being made to track student attendance in NJ SMART for the 2020-2021 school year?
Three new data fields are being added to NJ SMART SID Management to enable the NJDOE to collect reliable data on remote instruction and student attendance as required by the NJDOE and the United States Department of Education (USED). The three new fields are as follows:
- Student Learning Environment. Districts must indicate, for each student, whether the student’s learning environment is fulltime in-person on school premises; hybrid (partially in-person and partially remote); fulltime remote due to district, or fulltime remote due to parental choice.
- Remote Days in Membership. Districts must provide, for each student, the number of school days in session in which a student was enrolled and scheduled to receive instruction in a remote learning environment (i.e., offsite of the school’s premises) during the annual reporting period from July 1 through June 30.
- Remote Days Present. Districts must provide, for each student, the number of remote days in membership in which a student was marked as present during the annual reporting period from July 1 through June 30.
The Department will continue to utilize the Cumulative Days in Membership and Cumulative Days Present fields in SID Management to track, respectively, the total number of school days in session in which the student is enrolled, and the total number of school days in session the student is recorded as present. The Cumulative Days in Membership and Cumulative Days Present fields include attendance in remote learning environments.
- What changes need to be made to district student information systems?>
District student information systems should be modified to adequately accommodate reporting of the three new data fields and associated validation rules being added to NJ SMART SID Management for the collection of reliable data on remote instruction and student attendance. Please see question 10 above for additional information regarding these fields.
Instruction Provided to Students in Remote Learning Environments
- What is meant by “active instruction” as stated in E.O. No. 175?
Active instruction refers to instruction provided in accordance with N.J.A.C. 6A:8 and the Department’s Restart and Recovery Plan: The Road Back, Updates and Supplemental Guidance. Active instruction is inclusive of both synchronous and asynchronous learning.
- Is instruction provided to students in remote learning environments considered home instruction?
No. Districts should report home instruction only for those students who have been placed on home instruction for medical or other reasons as set forth in N.J.A.C. 6A:16-10.1, 10.2, or for students with disabilities who have been placed on home instruction by their IEP team as required by N.J.A.C. 6A:14-4.8.
- Is there a required number of minutes for high school students to receive credits and to meet graduation requirements?
Yes, according to N.J.A.C. 6A:8, for students to meet a state-endorsed high school diploma, they must participate in a local program of study of not fewer than 120 credits in courses designed to meet all of the New Jersey Student Learning Standards. A credit may be awarded for the equivalent of a class period of instruction, which meets for a minimum of 40 minutes one time per week during the school year or through program completion of a range of experiences as approved through N.J.A.C. 6A:8-5.1(a)2. Districts and schools may utilize both synchronous and asynchronous instruction to meet these requirements.
- Are certified teachers required to deliver instruction to students in remote learning environments?
Yes. Formal instruction must be delivered by a certified teacher authorized to teach the course’s content area. In accordance with N.J.A.C. 6A:9B-7, individuals holding a substitute credential may temporarily replace a certified and regularly employed classroom teacher who is absent. In accordance with N.J.A.C. 6A:9A-4.4, clinical interns may teach lessons under the direct supervision of a certified cooperating teacher. These regulations apply to whole-class instruction as well as to small-group instruction, special education, bilingual and English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction.
There may be instances in which students are present in classrooms, but their appropriately certificated teachers are delivering instruction from remote locations. Please refer to the additional guidance regarding monitoring during remote instruction at the School Reopening FAQ webpage.
- Attendance Works. (2020). Monitoring Attendance in Distance Learning.
- Center on Great Teachers & Leaders at the American Institutes for Research. (2020). Insights on COVID-19.
- Chambers, D.; Scala, J. & English, D. (2020). Promising Practices Brief: Improving Student Engagement and Attendance During COVID-19 School Closures. Insight Policy Research, American Institutes for Research (AIR) and the U.S. Department of Education.
- Colorado Department of Education. Calculating and Reporting Attendance and Truancy in Online Schools.
- FutureEd at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy. (2020). Attendance Playbook: Smart Solutions for Reducing Chronic Absenteeism in the Covid Era.
- Myung, J. et. al. (2020). Supporting Learning in the COVID-19 Context: Research to Guide Distance and Blended Instruction. Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE).
- Regional Education Laboratories (RELs). (2020). COVID-19: Evidence-Based Resources.
- Are immunization requirements for students waived for the 2020-21 school year?
No, the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) will not waive the vaccine requirements nor will there be any extensions for the 2020-21 school year.
Students attending school in-person or remotely will be required to comply with age-appropriate immunization requirements. NJDOH will only permit applicable exemptions and provisional admittance of students in accordance with the requirements set forth in N.J.A.C. 8:57-4, “Immunization of Pupils in School.” .
Provisionally admitted students must have a minimum of one dose of each required vaccine and be scheduled to receive the remaining doses as rapidly as medically feasible utilizing the CDC Catch-Up Schedule. Examples of what constitutes a valid exemption and provisional admission can be found in the NJDOH Immunization Requirements FAQs.
- Should school districts enroll students who cannot provide proof of up-to-date immunization records?
Yes. Enrollment in a school district may not be denied based upon the absence of student medical information. However, in-person or remote attendance at school may be deferred until the student is in compliance with the immunization rules at N.J.A.C. 8:57-4. In accordance with N.J.A.C. 6A:16-2.2(b), each school district is responsible for ensuring that students whose parents or guardians have not submitted acceptable evidence of the student’s immunizations according to the schedule set forth in N.J.A.C. 8:57-4 are not knowingly admitted or retained in a school building.
The chart from the NJDOH provides an outline of the required immunizations. Additionally, answers to questions regarding immunizations, exemptions, and non-compliance may be found in the Frequently Asked Questions section of the NJDOH Vaccine Preventable Disease Program webpage.
- Have there been any changes to the length of the 30-day grace period for students arriving from out of state or out of country due to COVID-19?
There are no changes to the 30-day grace period for the 2020-21 school year due to COVID-19.
Pursuant to N.J.A.C. 6A:16-2.2 and N.J.A.C. 8:57-4.5(e), students entering a New Jersey school from another state or country are allowed up to 30 days to provide proof of immunization history before their provisional status begins. If, after the 30 days have elapsed and no documentation of previous vaccination is provided, the child may not attend school in person or remotely until one dose of all age-appropriate required vaccines are received. Please see NJDOH’s Immunization Requirements webpage for additional information regarding provisional admission.
The 30-day grace period only applies to transfer students, coming from a different state or country. There is no grace period for students who transfer to another New Jersey school district or a nonpublic school.
Remote Learning Monitoring
- May a school district that is operating on a hybrid schedule use available school facility space to monitor students during periods of remote learning during the school day?
A district that is offering hybrid instruction should first prioritize the maximum use of all available school facility space for in-person instruction in accordance with the health and safety standards. However, if a school district has remaining available facility space for students who would otherwise be engaged in remote learning from home, and that facility space has been certified as meeting the health and safety standards as set forth in Executive Order 175, the district may use that space to monitor remote learning for students under the supervision of district-employed staff under the conditions and criteria set forth below in number 2. A school district may not charge a fee to families to provide this service.
- If schools have students present in school facility space that are engaged in remote instruction with a teacher that is teaching from a remote location under the circumstances described in #1 above, what are the requirements for adult staff members monitoring those students?
A staff member monitoring remote instruction of students by a teacher who is not present in the school building under the circumstances set forth in number 1 above must, at a minimum:
- Meet criminal history record requirements pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:6-7.1, and
- Possess the appropriate experience and training to provide appropriate care and support to students in such an environment, as determined by the district, such as a paraprofessional, credentialed substitute teacher, or an individual with a New Jersey teaching certificate.
When considering how to appropriately staff the monitoring of remote learning in schools, districts should carefully consider the variety of grades or program types of the students, the need for coordination between the monitor and the teacher providing remote instruction, and the individual needs of the students. In particular, if a student with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) is in the room, and the student’s IEP calls for in-class support by a special education teacher, teacher’s aide (group or one-to one), interpreter, or other supplementary aide or service, the district must ensure that these services are provided in accordance with the student’s IEP to the greatest extent possible. If services in a student’s IEP cannot be delivered in accordance with a student’s IEP, the IEP team may need to review or amend the IEP. In the case of students in bilingual programs, schools must ensure communication access is available for students.
- Can a school district with an existing before- or after-care program operate such a program during school hours to provide child care to working families with school-aged children?
Consistent with N.J.S.A. 18A:20-34(f), districts that have certified that they meet the health and safety standards required by EO 175 may operate child care before or after regular school hours. This authority to offer child care does not extend to time during the school day. Districts seeking to offer child care during the school day must do so by partnering with a child care provider licensed by the Department of Children and Families. A list of current eligible providers can be found here.
- May districts use off-site space for in-person instruction?
Yes, districts may use off-site space for in-person instruction, but in doing so the district must comply with all applicable statutory and regulatory requirements governing school facilities and operations, as well as the health and safety standards outlined in EO175.
- May school districts that have not opened school facilities to in-person instruction due to an inability to meet health and safety standards use that district facility space for child care purposes?
No, school districts that have not opened school facilities to in-person instruction because they cannot meet health and safety standards may not have students and staff on premises for in-person monitoring of students during remote learning or child care.
Districts seeking to offer child care during the school day must do so by partnering with a child care provider licensed by the Department of Children and Families. A list of eligible providers can be found here.
- Are face coverings required for staff, students, and visitors in school facilities?
Yes. District staff, students, and visitors are required to wear face coverings except under the following circumstances:
- When doing so would inhibit the individual’s health.
- When a student is in extreme heat outdoors.
- When a student is in water.
- If a student’s documented medical condition, or disability as reflected in an Individualized Education Program (IEP), precludes the use of a face covering.
- If a student is under the age of two (2), due to the risk of suffocation.
- When a student is eating or drinking.
- If or when anyone has trouble breathing or is unconscious, is incapacitated, or is otherwise unable to remove the face covering without assistance (e.g., face coverings should not be worn by Pre-K students during nap time).
- The student is engaged in high intensity aerobic or anaerobic activities.
- During gym and music classes when individuals are in a well-ventilated location and able to maintain a physical distance of six feet apart (see number 2 below).
- When wearing a face covering creates an unsafe condition in which to operate equipment or execute a task (for example, students operating machinery in which face coverings may get caught).
- Are students required to wear face coverings during specials/electives such as music/choir or physical education?
Face coverings may be removed during physical education or music classes, provided individuals are in a well-ventilated location and able to maintain a physical distance of six feet apart. Vigorous exercise, as well as music and choir classes in a confined space (e.g., indoors) may contribute to transmission of COVID-19 and should be limited. Consider conducting such activities in an area with greater ventilation or air exchange (e.g., outdoors). When students are not singing or playing an instrument that requires the use of their mouth, they should wear a face covering in music class (unless class is outdoors and distance can be maintained).
- Who is responsible for supplying face coverings and other supplies to staff and students? Who should be notified if the district cannot acquire the necessary health and safety supplies needed for reopening? Is an enhanced level of PPE needed for school nurses and/or other staff who work more closely with students?
Face coverings may be provided by the student’s family/guardian and can be included as part of the back to school supplies list provided to families/guardians prior to the start of school year. Schools should provide extra disposable face coverings for students who need them (e.g. students who forget or misplace their face coverings) and should provide face coverings for students that are experiencing financial hardship and are unable to afford them to the greatest extent possible.
Districts should provide (in addition to normal supplies) any additional supplies/materials necessary for staff to do their jobs. For example, teaching staff, nursing staff, food service professionals, etc., should be provided with gloves, as necessary.
The Road Back (p. 25-27) advises that special consideration should be given to protect staff members, such as school nurses, custodians, and some special education teachers, paraprofessionals and services providers, who will be in close contact with students or handle waste materials. As a resource, the Department’s guidance also refers to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s memo regarding Guidance on Required Safety Supplies for Re-opening Schools, which provides additional information on the quantity and type of PPE materials for such staff members.
- How long should a face mask be used before it is replaced?
Based on updated reopening standards from the Department of Education, all students and staff are required to wear face coverings. Cloth face coverings are different than surgical face masks (which could also be worn but which are in short supply and should generally be reserved for healthcare workers). Cloth face coverings should be washed at the end of every day (sooner if they become wet or soiled). Single use disposable face masks should be changed daily unless they become damp or soiled, in this case they should be replaced immediately.
- Can staff and/or students wear face shields instead of face coverings?
Currently, the CDC does not recommend use of face shields as a substitute for face coverings. Therefore, they may not be used to satisfy face covering requirements. However, they may be an option for students with medical or other challenges that preclude the use of face coverings. If face shields are used without a mask, they should wrap around the sides of the wearer’s face and extend to below the chin.
Screening and Testing
- What measures need to be in place to identify people that have COVID-19 but do not know it because they are asymptomatic?
Asymptomatic individuals do not have symptoms that can be identified without a test. Contact tracing is designed to identify those individuals without symptoms who may have been in contact with a person with COVID-19 and who should quarantine. Per CDS guidance, if individuals have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, they should self-quarantine for 14 days from last possible exposure prior to returning.
- Should school districts require daily testing of all students and staff?
No. There is no statewide policy for testing students and currently neither the CDC nor the NJ DOH recommend daily testing of students.
- Should students, staff, or others who have been tested for COVID-19 attend or visit school while they await test results?
Anyone who is sick should stay home from school. Anyone who suspects they are ill and received a COVID-19 test should not attend or visit school while awaiting test results. Should the test result be negative, they should follow normal illness exclusion rules (typically 24 hours without fever before they can return to school). If a clinician has a suspicion that the illness may be COVID-19 despite a negative test, they should follow general guidance related to COVID-19 – ie, unless they were immunocompromised, they would wait at least 10 days from symptom onset and at least one day from resolution of symptoms prior to returning. If the individual should be quarantined based upon a known exposure, then they would need to wait 14 days from last possible exposure prior to returning.
- What are the rules and procedures to clear an individual to return to school following a positive test result? Does a test need to come back negative?
A negative test is not necessary to return to school. CDS follows CDC guidelines, which provide that persons with COVID-19 who have symptoms and were directed to care for themselves at home may discontinue isolation under the following conditions:
- At least 10 days* have passed since symptom onset, and
- At least 24 hours have passed since resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications, and
- Other symptoms have improved.
*A limited number of persons with severe illness may produce replication-competent virus beyond 10 days, that may warrant extending duration of isolation for up to 20 days after symptom onset. Consider consultation with infection control experts. See Discontinuation of Transmission-Based Precautions and Disposition of Patients with COVID-19 in Healthcare Settings (Interim Guidance).
Persons infected with SARS-CoV-2 who never develop COVID-19 symptoms may discontinue isolation and other precautions 10 days after the date of their first positive RT-PCR test for SARS-CoV-2 RNA.
- Should there be a specific place at school to isolate students or staff who show symptoms of COVID-19?
Schools must identify a designated space where persons with COVID-19 symptoms can be separated from other students and staff while they wait to be picked up from school. School nurses and other healthcare providers should use Standard and Transmission-Based Precautions when caring for sick people.
- If a student who has been at school is identified as having COVID, does the entire class have to be quarantined for 14 days?
As provided in CDS guidance, if individuals have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, meaning they are within 6 feet of someone for at least ten minutes, they should self-quarantine for 14 days from the date of last exposure before returning to school. In the case of a positive COVID test, local health departments, working in coordination with school districts, will conduct contact tracing to determine whether or not an individual has been in close contact with a student and advise any affected individuals, via trained contact tracers, to self-quarantine for 14 days. The local health department in coordination with the school will assess the specific circumstances of the individual with the positive test to determine those individuals that have been in close contact and need to self-quarantine – this may or may not include all students in the class.
- If a student is removed from or denied access to the school building based on the screening required under Critical Area of Operation #5 in The Road Back, how should attendance for that student be marked?
In such an instance, districts should mark the student’s attendance in accordance with local attendance policy, which will depend in part on whether the student is able to participate in remote instruction on that day. District and school policies for attendance and instructional time may require modification for the 2020-2021 school year and will need to accommodate opportunities for both synchronous and asynchronous instruction, while ensuring the requirements for the 180-day school year are met. The policy will need to specify attendance procedures for students that will be participating in any combination of remote, hybrid, or in person instruction, including details on the recording of absences due to illness or attendance when a student is participating in fully remote learning.
- Are districts responsible for maintaining social distancing in all buses, classrooms, bathrooms and school spaces at all times?
Face coverings should be worn by all staff, students, and visitors in accordance with the updated guidance.
In addition to wearing face coverings, schools and districts must implement policies that allow for social distancing within the classroom to the maximum extent practicable. This can be achieved by ensuring students are seated at least six feet apart. If schools are not able to maintain this physical distance, additional modifications should be considered. These include using physical barriers between desks and turning desks to face the same direction (rather than facing each other) or having students sit on only one side of the table, spaced apart.
Policies must be designed so that all instructional and non-instructional rooms (e.g. bathrooms, common areas, and auditoriums) in school and district facilities comply with social distancing standards to the maximum extent practicable. Any modifications to school district facilities should be in coordination with local code officials and Department county offices to ensure that alterations adhere to school safety requirements.
School districts should enact policies to maintain social distancing practices on buses (at least six feet of distance between riders) to the maximum extent practicable. Several methods are available to achieve such social distancing:
- The CDC recommends that school districts modify the manner students are seated on a school bus such that there is one student seated per row, skipping a row between each child, if possible. Under this scenario, a 54-passenger bus would only have 11 passengers (seating students who reside in the same household in the same row, whenever possible, would increase capacity).
- Alternatively, a district may consider seating one student per row, doubling the vehicle’s capacity.
- For example, several companies have started marketing physical barriers that separate rows on a school bus. Such equipment would allow students to be seated in each row, thereby doubling the socially distant capacity that was previously noted. Entities that oversee the safety of school buses, the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission and federal regulators, would need to approve the use of such equipment.
- What is the current research on the relationship between the length of time an individual spends in close proximity to another and the level of risk of contracting COVID-19? For example, what is the increased degree of risk for students in a school building for 6 hours vs 4 hours vs the hour an individual may be in a hair salon?
There are many factors that determine the likelihood of an individual becoming infected. Such factors include the infectivity of infected individuals, whether face coverings are worn, and conditions in the physical environment (indoor vs outdoor, air circulation, etc.). As such, it is impossible to directly quantify risk over time. However, it is clear that prolonged exposure without proper social distancing or face coverings increases risk.
- Please describe the indoor air quality criteria a school district must meet in order to satisfy the “adequate ventilation” reopening standard described in k. of paragraph 2 of Executive Order 175 and in the NJDOE’s Checklist for the Re-Opening of School 2020-2021.
All school buildings are required to satisfy the Public Employees Occupational Safety and Health (PEOSH) Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) standard (N.J.A.C. 12:100-13). No additional ventilation or air quality requirements have been imposed on school buildings as a result of COVID-19. Information regarding the IAQ standard and additional considerations for school districts can be found in NJDOH’s guidance here.
- Will there be an expectation that a second adult will be on each school bus in order to enforce social distancing and wearing masks so that the driver can focus on the road and the students will comply?
There is no NJDOE COVID-19 anticipated minimum standard that school buses require additional staff. Staffing decisions remain in the purview of the board of education. The NJDOE encourages school district Restart Committees to consider methods for implementing the minimum anticipated standards described in the Road Back in a manner that reflects local needs and circumstances.
- What notifications are required to the school community when there is an exposure? Timing? Method of communication? What notifications are required to the school community when there is a positive test result of a teacher / student / staff member?
As outlined in The Road Back, if the school district becomes aware that an individual who has spent time in a district facility tests positive for COVID-19, district officials must immediately notify local health officials, staff, and families of a confirmed case while maintaining confidentiality. Notification procedures must be consistent with the district’s contact tracing policy to the maximum extent practicable.
Districts should work with their local health department and follow CDC guidelines for illness reporting. They should also work with their local health department to develop written protocols to address a positive case.
- Are school facilities open to the communities for recreational use?
Yes, in accordance with the NJDOE’s “The Road Back: Restart and Recovery Plan for Education.” As noted in Critical Area of Operation #10, all extracurricular activities that are otherwise permitted must comply with applicable social distancing requirements and hygiene protocol. External community organizations that use school facilities must follow district guidance on health and safety protocols.
- How should districts accommodate class activities with shared objects, such as art supplies or musical instruments?
As stated on page 10 of "The Road Back: Restart and Recovery for Education," school districts should avoid or limit sharing objects and equipment. When sharing is unavoidable, objects and equipment should be disinfected between uses.
- If there is an apparent conflict between recommendations set forth in the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) standards and CDC guidelines, which set of standards should districts abide by?
Districts should comply with those provisions identified as anticipated minimum standards in the Department’s reopening guidance, which was developed in consultation with the NJ Department of Health. All other resources referenced throughout the guidance, such as the AAP standards and CDC guidelines, are designed to support local decision-making and consultation with local health officials.
- If a parent opts-out of sending their child to school, can they still participate in sports or other extra-curricular activities?
Yes. Students may still participate in sports and extra-curricular activities if they are utilizing the full-time remote learning option, if such sports and extra-curricular activities are otherwise permitted.
Contact Tracing Responsibilities and Procedures
- Which entity should serve as a health and safety contact if school districts have questions about reopening?
The primary contact for school districts should be the local health departments, which will use state level guidance to work with local officials upon school reopening. The Department of Education and Department of Health work closely together on all school reopening guidance, and DOE field representatives should continue to serve as district and school points of contact should questions arise throughout the school year.
Plan Development and Submission
- Is local board of education approval required for the district’s reopening plan?
Although the NJDOE does not require approval of district reopening plans by district boards of education, school districts and charter schools are expected to include members of their board of education or board of trustees on their Restart Committee. Local boards of education should contact their board attorney regarding approval of school calendars, school hours, and safety protocols and policies.
- Can districts share reopening plans with teachers, parents, and the school community prior to review from the NJDOE?
NJDOE review of plans is not required prior to sharing information with staff, parents, and the school community. Districts should ensure that staff, parents, and the school community understand the plans are pending review and may be subject to change. Districts should communicate regularly with the school community during the plan development process and post reopening plans on their district’s website.
- Will school days be required to meet any length of day requirements in the 2020-2021 school year?
As noted on page 49 of “The Road Back: Restart and Recovery for Education,” according to N.J.A.C. 6A:32-8.3, a school day shall consist of not less than four hours, except that one continuous session of two and one-half hours may be considered a full day in kindergarten. District and school policies for attendance and instructional contact time will need to accommodate opportunities for both synchronous and asynchronous instruction, while ensuring the requirements for a 180-day school year are met.
- Are districts allowed to utilize varying hybrid approaches that best fit their school community’s needs, i.e. four, four-hour days and one day of remote instruction?
Yes. School districts may utilize a variety of schedules that ensure compliance with N.J.A.C. 6A:32-8.3. District and school policies for attendance and instructional contact time will need to accommodate opportunities for both synchronous and asynchronous instruction, while ensuring the requirements for a 180-day school year are met.
- Does Executive Order No. 175 supersede the provisions of L. 2020, c. 27 (A-3904)?
No. Because schools were closed for the requisite three-day period pursuant to the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency in the spring, all provisions of L. 2020, c. 27, including the ability to count days of remote instruction towards the required 180 days of school and the provisions regarding payments to staff and contracted service providers, remain in effect. The provisions of L.2020, c.27 will remain in effect throughout the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
- Must all public schools be closed to in-person instruction on Election Day, November 3, 2020?
Yes. Pursuant to paragraph 5 of Executive Order No. 177, all public schools are required to be closed to in-person instruction on Election Day, November 3, 2020, regardless of whether a particular school building is designated for use as a polling location. The Order also prohibits a public school from denying the request of county Boards of Elections for use of their buildings as polling places. Districts may, at their discretion, provide remote instruction to all students on that day.
- Has the NJDOE provided any flexibility for a district to meet its obligation to provide a daily recess period, in light of the various scheduling modifications that districts might be implementing throughout the 2020-2021 school year (e.g. shortened school days to accommodate hybrid learning models; remote instruction days)?
State law requires school districts to provide a daily recess period of at least 20 minutes for students in grades kindergarten through 5, except on days that are substantially shortened due to a delayed opening or early dismissal (NJSA 18A:35-4.31). The provision of four hours of in-person or remote instruction will qualify as a full school day pursuant to Executive Order No. 175, and NJDOE therefore cannot waive this statutory requirement. Districts should thoughtfully consider ways to ensure students have access to this required part of the school day, whether incorporated as a part of face covering breaks in accordance with the Department’s updated guidance, or during times that students are receiving remote instruction.
- Can parents choose to have instruction at home, but only send their child to school for therapy (OT/PT/SLP)?
Under the NJDOE’s fulltime remote learning guidance, a family/guardian may submit a request for fulltime remote learning which may include any service or combination of services that would otherwise be delivered on an in-person or hybrid schedule, such as instruction, behavioral and support services, special education, and related services. A family/guardian may request that some services be delivered entirely remotely, while other services follow the same schedule they otherwise would according to the district’s reopening plan.