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Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, left, announces his endorsement of Phil Murphy for Governor in September 2016.

Murphy ‘disappointed’ over Jersey City schools’ shift away from in-person classes

Teacher shortage upends district’s plan to return to in-person schooling next week

By Nikita Biryukov, April 21 2021 3:15 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy was dismayed to see Jersey City delay a return to in-person schooling slated for next Monday over a shortage of teachers, but it’s not clear whether his administration would move to head off similar delays before the end of the school year.

“I was disappointed in the Jersey City development. It’s very hard to say otherwise. I know Mayor [Steven] Fulop was, and I know he had done a lot to try to push that into the right direction,” he said. “I hope that the combination of good smart public health habits, vaccinations — we’re in the many millions — warmer weather, that that combination would allow a decision like that to be reconsidered.”

Jersey City, the state’s second largest school district, had planned a full return to in-person instruction on April 26 but abandoned the plan earlier this week after more than 450 staff and faculty said they would not appear in the flesh.

Fulop wasn’t thrilled about the decision either.

“I understand the leadership at the Jersey City Public Schools just notified all parents that the Jersey City schools will not reopen till September,” the mayor said in a Facebook post Sunday. “I don’t know how else to describe this other than an absolute failure in leadership and planning at the JCPS.”

Asked directly, Murphy declined to say if the state would stop accepting faculty shortages as a reason for remote schooling ahead of the fall. He also declined to say whether the state would give guidance on replacing teachers who refuse to come in for work.

“What happens between now and then I think is to be determined,” he said. “And I do want to say this: In fairness to everybody involved, I was on with a bunch of educators yesterday and I call them regularly sort of up and down the state. The stress is overwhelming for everybody. The educators, the kids, the parents. Anybody associated with our educational communities.”

Murphy has said educators and their students will all appear in-person five days a week starting in September, though he has urged districts to return to the practice earlier if possible.

“We’re back in business this September, Monday through Friday,” he said. “For educators, kids, everybody in as close to a normal school year as possible.”

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