Gov. Murphy: New Jersey's digital divide 'finally closed'

"We committed $54 million in federal pandemic relief funds earmarked specifically for education to close this divide," Murphy said. "Today, that investment has paid off."

Video Transcript

PHIL MURPHY: As of today, New Jersey's digital divide is now no more. It has been closed. Based on the latest input from our schools and districts, the reported number of students across New Jersey still lacking either a device or connectivity for remote learning is zero. Last summer when we first looked to take on this challenge, it was estimated that 231,000 students did not have all the tools they needed for remote learning. These students lived in every setting-- urban, suburban, rural.

We committed $54 million in federal pandemic relief funds earmarked specifically for education to partner with our districts to close this divide. And today, that investment has paid off. However, don't expect us to rest on any laurels, because now our task shifts to ensuring that the digital divide isn't allowed to creak back open.

And closing the digital divide wasn't just about meeting the challenges of remote learning, although it is, it's been about ensuring that every student has the tools they need to excel in a 21st-century educational environment. This is vitally important as more and more of our students return to in-person instruction, whether their schools are all in-person or are reopening to allow in-person classes on a hybrid schedule. Their laptops are not just for home instruction. They're just as critical these days as any textbook.

So let's remember, there are about 812 public school districts, charter schools, renaissance schools, and schools for students with disabilities across our state over which we have stewardship. Today, of that number, currently 110 are open for all in-person instruction. That's more than 70,000 students back in their classrooms full time.

Another 541 are open for hybrid instruction. That is more than 831,000 students. And these numbers are both up from the last time we gave a full report. I think that was 10 days ago. Some 36 of our local education agencies are using some combination of in-person, hybrid, or all-remote learning across their buildings, and this impacts about 85,000 students, but many of them, we know, are back in their classrooms in some fashion.

This leaves roughly 367,000 students in 125 different districts or schools who are still on full-time-- full-time remote learning, and this number also continues to trend downward. But keep in mind, too, that these students have now been out of their classrooms for a full year, and getting all of our students back in their familiar school surroundings, learning alongside their friends and in classrooms headed by their dedicated educators and support staff is among our top priorities. It's one reason why we are working with our educators to get them vaccinated so they can move confidently in returning to their classrooms.