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Bipartisan Bill to Allow Flexible Instruction Days in Case of Extended Emergency School Closures Passes Assembly

Burzichelli, Schepisi, Lampitt and Jasey Sponsor Legislation

To allow virtual and remote learning to meet the 180-day instruction requirement for school districts in case of extended emergency school closures, the full Assembly passed bipartisan legislation 79-0 on Wednesday.

The bill (A-3904) would apply to closures of more than three consecutive days in response to a declared state of emergency, public health emergency, or when a directive from the appropriate health agency or officer is given. Charter schools, county vocational school districts, county special services school districts and an approved private school for students with disabilities are included in the bill.

The legislation also makes further provisions to protect public school employees, both covered and not covered by a collective negotiations agreement, during such closures. It now heads to the Senate for consideration.

Bipartisan sponsors of the bill issued the following statements:

Assemblyman John J. Burzichelli (D-Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem): “We’re are now at the point where school closures have students learning from home. During these times and those ahead, ensuring school districts are equipped with the guidelines and flexibility for remote instruction when it needs to happen is crucial. At the end of the day, schools should not feel compelled to keep children in classes if they would be safer learning from home.”

Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R-Bergen, Passaic): “We must think of the safety of the children and those who work in education during this pandemic. With schools closed, it’s vitally important to make sure we institute a plan so the education process can continue from home, and grant the school districts the ability to make the choice to continue their student’s learning process remotely.”

Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (D-Camden, Burlington): “The last thing we want is for the school year and students’ education to be disrupted. Putting legislation like this on the books is key to ensuring school preparedness. Whether we’re talking about the coronavirus or something else, this measure is important in helping schools develop a plan to navigate any major emergency that comes their way.

Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D-Essex, Morris): “A child’s education has never been confined to the four walls of the classroom: it is every conversation had, every book read, every chance encounter with the previously unknown. In these unprecedented circumstances, virtual and remote learning have become the new norm; establishing these new parameters allows critical learning to continue at home, so no child falls behind.”