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Governor Murphy signs executive order allowing in-person instruction for the fall

N.J. schools and colleges will be allowed to open for in-person instruction despite the state not moving into Stage 3 of its reopening process, according to a series of tweets from Governor Phil Murphy on Wednesday.

The update follows last week’s announcement by the University that in-person instruction would be delayed due to the state’s apparent unwillingness to move to Stage 3, originally a prerequisite for the School’s 69-page Restart Plan to go into effect.

Classrooms sat empty for much of the Spring 2020 semester, and until Wednesday it seemed they would stay that way for the forseeable future. (Nicholas Kerr/Editor-in-Chief)

“Today, I’m signing an executive order officially clearing… our colleges and universities to reopen for the upcoming year,” Governor Murphy’s tweet said. “As many of our colleges and universities have continued offering classes during the summer, in-person instruction may fully resume as long as social distancing and other protections are strictly adhered to.”

The executive order will allow schools to circumvent the state's planned reopening process, which had placed in-person instruction in Stage Three since the plan's inception at the start of the pandemic.

The University announced on Thursday that their long-planned “Hybrid Flexible” instruction method would have to be delayed until N.J. moved to Stage Three. However, with Murphy’s new executive order, Seton Hall will be allowed to move forward with its plans. 

“Because the semester will likely start before the state enters Stage 3, Seton Hall must begin the academic year with limited in-person instruction,” Thursday’s mass email from Student Services said. “Whether before or after the academic year begins, when New Jersey reaches Stage 3 or government health directives allow, the University plans to pivot to the HyFlex model of on-campus, in-person instruction.”

The University released a statement regarding the executive order, but did not clearly reveal if or how this announcement will affect restart plans.

"We will provide you with additional information about this development in communications to follow. In the meantime, please continue to consult the Planning for Fall 2020 website," the Wednesday email from the University said.

University President Dr. Joseph Nyre will meet with Governor Murphy alongside presidents from universities statewide, according to the email.

The executive order also follows several days of updates from the University, including a Friday night announcement closing Complex residence halls, as well as offering a tuition-free ninth semester to incoming freshmen with the class of 2024. It is unclear if the new update by Murphy will affect these plans.

Daniel O'Connor can be reached at Find him on Twitter @itsDanOConnor.

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