JERSEY CITY — Hours after drawing scorn from Mayor Steven Fulop and Gov. Phil Murphy over his decision not to return to full-week in-classroom instruction, city schools Superintendent Franklin Walker announced Wednesday night that he has reconsidered his decision.

Students in the state's second-largest city will return this year in phases, starting with kindergarten through third grade on Thursday, April 29. The tentative return date for fourth to eighth grade is May 10 and grades 9-12 may return the same day but a final decision has not been made. Wednesday will remain a remote day for all students to allow for cleaning at the schools.

“The increased concerns of parents, especially those with young children, have made us reconsider the decision,” Walker said in a message to parents.

His initial decision, which he said was “guided by science” and staffing concerns, came under heavy criticism from Fulop, who thanked Walker for his reconsideration.

Parents were notified in a robocall Sunday night that schools would remain closed for the rest of the academic year.

Earlier, Fulop blasted Walker and supported parents who were scheduled to hold a protest at school headquarters on Thursday.

"While I’m not an organizer of this event, it’s an extremely important issue for all of us. Every other city around us (including Newark and NYC) have figured out some form of safe in-person instruction. Parents, students, and teachers in JC deserve this option as well," Fulop said on his Twitter account.

Murphy during on Wednesday said he was "disappointed" in the decision.

"It's very hard to say otherwise. I know Mayor Fulop was and I know he had done a lot to try to push that into the right direction. I hope that the combination of good, smart, public health habits, vaccinations in the many millions, warmer weather, that that combination would allow that a decision like that to be reconsidered," Murphy said.

Toms River public schools will return to five days of in-person instruction starting the week of May 3 after a "significant" drop in the infection rate and number of teachers and students in quarantine over the past seven school days, Superintendent Thomas Gialanella announced during Wednesday's Board of Education meeting.

"We're satisfied that we are ready to go. I think we will see more students returning once we go to five days. Our infection rate shows we are ready for that," Gialanella said.

He said the district is waiting a week in order to allow parents and staff to make adjustments to their schedules.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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