As New Jersey schools work on plans to restart learning amid coronavirus this fall, state officials are looking to close the digital divide to provide virtual learning for students as needed.
Gov. Phil Murphy held Thursday news conference in Irvington to “unveil our plan to address the digital divide for New Jersey students.”
Last month, Murphy and state education officials revealed their plan to reopen schools for in-person instruction this fall. It is up to school districts on how much virtual learning they do.
On Thursday, Murphy noted that roughly 230,000 New Jersey students were put at a disadvantage after schools were closed to in-person learning in March and went to virtual learning due to unreliable internet connections or WiFi and without proper computers or laptops.
The first-term Democrat noted that online learning is likely going to remain part of the education experience for some students this fall.
Murphy said the state is committed to closing the digital divide not only for the 2020-2021 school year but for the long-term.
He said the state will need to spend around $115 million to close the digital divide. About half will come from federal and state funds. The rest will come from the coronavirus relief fund, grants and other funding sources.
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Murphy urged businesses and the philanthropic community to step up and help fund needed resources for learning.
Murphy’s announcement came as the state’s COVID-19 case count was more than 175,000. At least 13,691 people have died from coronavirus-related complications with another nearly 2,000 deaths suspected to be from COVID-19.
Key hospital metrics were down Thursday, Murphy said. But, the statewide positivity rate for tests was 2.8% and the rate of transmission was at 1, both up a little bit up over the previous day.
Murphy said key metrics will continue to drive the state's reopening plans amid the ongoing virus.