It is back to class for most school districts that were forced into remote learning to begin the New Year.

State education officials reported 685 school districts, nearly a third of all schools, had moved to a hybrid schedule or a full remote learning due to COVID infections among students and staff.

More than 580 of those schools are reopening classrooms this week.

That total includes some of the largest school districts that had been dealing with multiple outbreaks. Trenton, Elizabeth, Jersey City and Newark all plan a resumption of in-person learning as of Jan. 18.

State health officials reports 388 cumulative school outbreaks as of Jan. 11. Bergen County has the highest number of outbreaks, at 48. Camden County is number 2, with 39 outbreaks, followed by Atlantic County with 30.

The Pleasantville School District in Atlantic County plans to remain on a remote schedule, for now.

Schools have struggled with quarantine rules, especially among staff. A shortage of teachers is what most often prompts districts to move back to remote learning.

In an effort to keep schools open for in-person learning, the New Jersey Department of Health shortened the recommended quarantine guidelines for students and staff members who test positive for COVID or have been exposed to the virus.

The new rules will help, eventually, but staffing shortages remain among the biggest challenges schools have had to deal with.

Remote learning also continues to take a toll on students' mental health. The state has been sending additional funding to districts to increase the mental health services they can offer students and their families.

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