The New Jersey Department of Education is releasing three guidance documents to help educators and families prepare for a return to full-time, in-person learning when the new school year begins in September.

Over the past 9 months, most schools have offered a combination of virtual and in-person instruction, but there has been a lot of concern and uncertainty about how much students actually learned over the past 15 months.

During the Monday COVID update, which was held virtually, Acting Education Commissioner Angelica Allen-McMillan said the guidance being given to school districts provides “a compilation of specific research based learning acceleration practices, this resource is designed to help districts recover from COVID-19.”

The Department of Education, in their documentation, describes learning acceleration as “an ongoing instructional process by which educators engage in formative practices to improve students’ access to and mastery of grade-level standards.”

Gov. Phil Murphy said the upcoming school year will present many challenges “especially in bringing back our students back to where we know they need to be, and making up for the learning loss that we know has occurred in many areas.”

Allen-McMillian said the guidance for schools will also serve as a long-term comprehensive framework “that anchors districts academic, social and emotional interventions for the common purpose of promoting global competitiveness.”

State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said the guidance also includes health and safety information and strategies to help schools reduce COVID risk, including “physical distancing, hand hygiene, cleaning and maintaining air flow.”

Allen-McMillan said schools should try to maintain physical distance between students to the extent that it is practicable, and interventions to aid with social distancing should include facing desks in the same direction and avoiding group seating arrangements.

She stressed however the physical distance recommendations must not prevent a school from offering fulltime in-person learning.

She also said schools should also maintain transparent and ongoing communication, as appropriate, with their staff, students, and caregivers regarding school operations and health and safety information.

Persichilli noted her Department is working closely with Education officials to prepare for the new school year because “it is vital for full day, full time in-person instruction to resume this fall in K through 12 classrooms.”

She said schools should anticipate getting updated COVID related guidance prior to the start of the new school year.

The guidance also includes a self-assessment document to help districts ensure they are ready for a return to full-time, in-person learning in the fall.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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