TRENTON, N.J. - The start of school in New Jersey is fast approaching, as more than 600 districts around the state race to finalize plans.
Governor Phil Murphy has pushed for in-person learning, but on Wednesday, his administration seemed to change its tune a bit on that push.
While Murphy still emphasized the importance of in-school learning, he added that the state's health standards for schools to be able to reopen their buildings is more feasible for some districts than others.
"Each one faces its own unique challenges, serves a unique community, and has its own unique community," Murphy said, adding that a "one-size fits all" approach doesn't make sense.
The state's plan for reopening schools includes standards for adequate social distancing, access to PPE and proper ventilation.
"We recognize for some districts there are legitimate and documentable reasons why some of these core health and safety measures can't be met on day one," Murphy said.
Murphy announced Wednesday that he would be signing an executive order that would allow schools unable to meet those requirements to begin the year with virtual learning. However, districts must still work toward at least partial reopening and submit target dates for achieving that.
"I think what the governor did today was in a lot of ways helpful. I know it will still cause some school administrators and superintendents a lot of stress," said Christopher Carrubba, superintendent for Belvidere and Harmony school districts.
Carrubba said his districts expect to be able to meet the state's guidelines without needing more time-the district had already postponed the year's start date to allow for more planning.
Belvidere's K-8 school will fully reopen, with students returning to class but with early dismissal. Students will not eat lunch at school, and those who qualify for free or reduced lunches will have access to takeaway meals.
Harmony's K-8 building will follow a similar format, although, on Wednesdays all students will work remotely.
High school students will operate on a hybrid schedule.
"I think a lot of districts will be consistently compared to each other, which is unfair, you know, why can Belvidere have a lot of kids in, and one district can't. So, I think that's a little bit of difficulty," Carrubba said.
All New Jersey families have the option of signing up their children for fully virtual school.