On Aug. 11, 2021, the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) released guidance for districts regarding instruction for students who cannot attend school under the New Jersey Department of Health’s (NJDOH) COVID-19 exclusion criteria.

Although there are no current executive orders pertaining to educating students while in quarantine, the guidance allows for tremendous local flexibility around whether and how districts can educate students affected by quarantine rules. The broadcast states that when a student, or group of students, cannot attend school in person because of quarantine, districts “are strongly encouraged to immediately provide virtual or remote instruction to those students in a manner commensurate with in-person instruction.”

The guidance advises districts to develop their own local policies and procedures for delivering instruction to students who are unable to attend school on a short-term basis because of quarantine requirements. Since so much of this decision-making is left to individual districts, local associations should advocate for instructionally sound policies and procedures that do not impose excessive workload burdens on teaching staff. Accordingly, it is NJEA’s position that any impact of providing instruction to quarantining students should be met by a formal demand to bargain by local associations, when warranted.

Additionally, depending on the length of the student’s quarantine and whether the student has an individualized education program (IEP) and/or 504 plan in place, districts may have existing (pre- COVID) policies on educating students who are unable to attend school, which must be implemented in accordance with the regulations on out-of-school instruction for students with health conditions (N.J.A.C. 6A:16-10.1.) Local association leaders should research any existing policies to make sure they are adhered to.

NJEA’s Professional Development and Instructional Issues (PDII) Division continues to engage with the NJDOE to advocate for our members and the school communities they serve. Those with questions about how the NJDOE’s guidance is being interpreted in their building or district should reach out to their local association, who will contact their UniServ field representative and/or a member of the PDII Division.