All New Jersey public schools will remain closed to in-person instruction for the rest of the school year, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday.

Private schools with longer school years will remain closed until at least June 30, the governor said. The announcements effectively extend an existing instruction by the governor to keep schools closed indefinitely — one he'd previously said would be revisited by May 15.

"We reached this conclusion based on the guidance from our public health experts, and with a single goal in mind" — continuing to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, Murphy said Monday at his daily press briefing on the pandemic.

He said schools could not be safely reopened with adequate social distancing measures, before the school year is out.

"The hurdles, logistical, educational and most of all practical that would have allowed students and faculty to return, even for a short time, could not be overcome," Murphy said.

All New Jersey school facilities have been closed since March, with public schools instead shifting to at-home instruction through a combination of lessons sent to families and online coursework.

The announcement gives certainty to a question that remained unanswered in the past few weeks — if, or when schools might reopen. Even anticipating extended closures, some districts have been eyeing options for graduation ceremonies, to be held either later in the year or through online celebrations.

The decision comes as New Jersey hospitalizations for the coronavirus continue to fall — suggesting the state has passed its peak, if current trends continue — but the state continues to register thousands of new cases and hundreds of new deaths each day.

The New Jersey Education Association, the state's largest teachers union, applauded the move in a press release issued during Murphy's press conference.

“We know this is an educational loss for students. The very best remote education is no substitute for the in-person instruction and peer interaction that helps our students learn and thrive. That loss is even greater for students who lack the resources to take full advantage of the online tools that are so important now," the union said. "The decision to extend this closure through the remainder of the school year makes it even more imperative that districts address those inequities and do everything possible to overcome them."

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