empty school room

No matter where you live in New Jersey, your school district in September will be required to offer children the option to continue attending school remotely rather than in-person.

"It is universally available. It's up now for the districts to fold this new dimension, this new flexibility into their plans," Gov. Phil Murphy said at Friday afternoon's COVID-19 briefing.

When the state Education Department's Road Back plan was announced in late June, the guidelines did not mandate remote learning, which has been the method of teaching since mid-March.

» MORE: Here is the state's just-issued guidance on remote learning.

"We received a great deal of feedback from parents, including those who wanted greater input into the decision of whether their child should return to in-person instruction," Kevin Dehmer, interim commissioner of the state Department of Education, said at Friday's briefing.

"All students are eligible for full-time remote learning if their parent or guardian so chooses," Dehmer said. The guidance the state is issuing Friday provides minimum standards for remote learning and it includes all students — including special education students.

Dehmer said the same standards for in-person instruction for attendance and the length of the school day will apply to remote learning. "Any student participating in all-remote learning should receive the same quality of instruction and other educational services provided to any other student," Dehmer said.

School districts across the state are meeting with parents, staff and others to draw up their individual plans. Most say they will have final plans in the first two weeks of August.

Gov. Murphy said the state's recently announced program to offer computer devices and internet access to every student in the state has made "a huge difference" in the ability to make remote learning possible.

"This is not going to be a normal school year. This is really hard," Murphy said. "We promised we would listen. We've listened."