A new report has been issued that looks at the challenges facing New Jersey school districts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Frank Belluscio, the deputy executive director of the New Jersey School Boards Association, said the report was developed after more than half a dozen surveys of school officials and a review of multiple studies and articles.

“We looked as some of the challenges involved in remote instruction, providing research that’s been published on virtual learning and how districts could help improve it,” he said. “It also calls on the state to conduct further research on closing the digital divide, also looking at ways we can improve online learning.”

He said almost all New Jersey students have some component of virtual instruction as part of their weekly school schedule, making access to the internet is essential.

Belluscio said additional study must be done to better understand what impact the pandemic has had on learning.

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The report recommends developing a statewide assessment of how special education services are being delivered; developing a program to improve the quality of online instruction; and improving remote instruction.

Belluscio said while the digital divide is primarily a socio-economic issue, it is affecting a broad range of school districts, some in urban areas, others in more rural parts of the state.

The School Boards Association has issued two previous reports on the impact of the pandemic, one addressing the safe reopening of schools, and another that provided an advocacy agency for public education during the health emergency.

A fourth report, on the impact of the pandemic on student health and wellness, will be issued early next year.

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