It's looking like a majority of New Jersey's school children will not see the inside of a classroom this year.

Trenton was the latest district to tell parents school would remain all remote until at least mid-March. If students were to return for the final weeks of the year, it would be on a limited basis. Two of New Jersey's largest districts, Newark and Jersey City, have said they will also maintain a remote schedule through at least the third marking period.

For many students, it will mean an entire year or more of learning from home. With the state in the midst of the second wave of COVID-19, and numbers surging in many communities, school officials are increasingly reluctant to allow students back into school buildings.

Of the 767 public and private school districts in New Jersey, only 79 were offering full in-person instruction. Most of those are either private schools or smaller rural public districts that can more easily maintain social distancing and sanitizing protocols. Another 351 districts are attempting to maintain a hybrid schedule that includes some classroom instruction. Another 337 districts are on an all-remote schedule, and that number is rising. A lack of classroom learning has been an source of increasing frustration for many working parents.

The New Jersey Education Association has repeatedly raised questions about the safety of having students in classrooms and butted heads with Gov. Phil Murphy over his urging to continue allowing into school.

Murphy has praised education officials and local school staffs for keeping the number of COVID cases down in school. The state since September has reported 111 outbreaks that involve 557 infections of students and staff. State guidelines require all schools to offer some in-person learning, but also provisions to move to remote learning if infections were rising in local communities. Even when districts have moved to get more kids into classrooms, some parents have kept their kids home anyway.

As he acknowledged the struggles districts are having accommodating classroom learning, Murphy said he would waive the 12th grade graduation assessment test for a second year in a row. Passing that test is usually a requirement to get a diploma. Murphy is also reworking how teachers as evaluated and extending the period for allowing certified teachers to work as substitutes.

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