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districts reopening
COURTESY STATE OF NEW JERSEY Interim Education Commissioner Kevin Dehmer speaks at a Wednesday, Sept. 2 press briefing in Trenton.

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

With the start of school approaching for many districts, the Department of Education has promised to work with districts to get their opening plans approved as quickly as possible.

Schools have chosen hybrid, all-remote, and in-person only models, as well as combinations of those choices.

As of Wednesday, Sept. 2, 434 districts have declared that they will be pursuing a hybrid model; 242 will be opening with all-remote education; 68 will have in-person education only, and 22 schools will have a combination of different reopening models. 

Of the submitted plans, 542 have been approved; 221 are under review, and the remaining 35 have not yet been reviewed. 

“There can be no one-size-fits-all measures,” Gov. Phil Murphy said. 

Interim Education Commissioner Kevin Dehmer said that when schools were ordered to close in March, schools saw “a seismic shift in education,” with districts transitioning to virtual education with little advance notice. 

“We began the  [2020-2021] school year light years ahead of where we were in the spring,” Dehmer said, talking about increased support for technology, schools’ ability to offer free and reduced-price meals, and online learning. 

Montclair’s schools will start virtual learning on Thursday, Sept. 10. The district hopes to reopen school buildings by November, with an anticipated reopening date of Nov. 1. 

Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli reiterated that if a child is found to be sick at school, the child must be isolated and sent home, and referred for testing. Whether or not a school remains open after that will depend on how many cases are identified in the school, and whether or not sick children are confined to one classroom or cohort, or spread out among different classrooms. 

Murphy said the reopening of schools, indoor recreation venues, restaurants and other establishments over the past few weeks could not have been done without New Jersey residents cooperating with social distancing orders and face mask orders. 

“Let’s be clear. The virus is not done with us yet,” Murphy said. He also reminded families that the new school year will be an adjustment period. “We all know that this will be a school year unlike any other,” he said. 

Today’s numbers

On Sept. 2, health officials reported 329 new cases of COVID-19, compared to 306 on Sept. 1, bringing the new total to 192,595 cases. The positivity rate is 2.19 percent, compared to 1.41 percent on Aug. 31, and the virus transmission rate was 0.96, up from 0.90.

Hospitals reported 514 patients on Sept. 1, compared to 484 on Aug. 30. Hospital patients include 99 critical care patients, with 29 ventilators in use, compared to 72 critical care patients and 37 ventilators in use on Aug. 30. Hospital data for Aug. 31 was unavailable on the state’s dashboard due to technical difficulties on Sept. 2. 

Officials also report 11 new deaths on Sept. 2, compared to five on Sept. 1. The number of confirmed deaths currently stands at 14,181. The number of probable COVID-19 deaths stands at 1,783, an increase of three from 1,780 on Aug. 31. Hospitals report 14 additional deaths, compared to 15 on Aug. 31. 

Essex County health officials report 20,151 cases as of Sept. 2, up from 20,129 on Sept. 1: an increase of 22 cases. Officials also reported 1,867 total deaths, an increase of one from 1,866 on Sept. 1. 

Montclair health officials reported four new cases on Sept. 2, bringing the total from 509 to 513. The number of deaths remains at 54.

Persichilli said there has been one new case of multisystem inflammatory syndrome, bringing the state total to 57.