No matter how many restrictions are lifted as New Jersey recovers from the pandemic, it wont really feel normal to parents and their kids until classrooms are fully reopened.

Progress is being made. In the last week, another 33 districts have moved to some form of in-person learning. Most schools are offering part-time in-class instruction and give parents the option of keeping kids home for remote learning.

When First Lady Jill Biden stopped by a Burlington City elementary school on Monday, there were just two students in the classroom she visited. The rest of the class was remote. The number of school districts in New Jersey that remain all remote a year after the pandemic closed all schools has dropped below 100.

Patience among parents, lawmakers and many teachers is growing thin. Members of New Jersey's congressional delegation stepped up the pressure to reopen this week. Parents have been protesting, most recently in Morris County, demanding Gov. Phil Murphy mandate a reopening. Murphy has vowed all schools will be reopened in the Fall, but has largely left this year up to individual districts to decide. Many New Jersey municipalities have began special vaccination clinics for teachers and staff to accelerate the reopening process. The state's largest district, Newark, vaccinated hundreds of educators Tuesday in anticipation of reopening classrooms next month.

One of the biggest hurdles to reopening schools is not vaccinations — it's distance. State guidelines require 6 feet of social distancing be maintained in all areas of school buildings. Many schools simply cannot accommodate that. A new study shows that 6 feet may not be necessary. As long as kids keep their masks on, decreasing the distance to three feet showed no increase in the infection rate. A handful of state's have adopted the three foot social distancing rule for their schools.

The Centers for Disease Control is reviewing the data but has kept its official recommendation at 6 feet. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 6 feet of separation but has said 3 feet is acceptable if six feet is not possible. Murphy has given no indication he is open to reducing social distancing guidelines. It would likely be met by resistance from the New Jersey Education Association. The teachers union has opposed reopening classrooms in a number of local districts over safety concerns, including the failure to maintain proper distancing.

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