New Jersey to Address COVID-19’s Impact on Students with $1.2 Billion ‘The Road Forward’ Program

By: Kaitlyn Kudriavetz, Writer / Follow South Jersey Child Welfare Intern

Photo: Ryan Schumacher | Follow South Jersey

TRENTON, N.J. — Governor Phil Murphy and New Jersey Department of Education (DOE) Acting Commissioner Dr. Angelica Allen-McMillan announced their $1.2 billion “The Road Forward” program last Friday to address the impact on academic and mental health due to COVID-19.

The $1.2 billion federal COVID-19 relief funds will be distributed by district and used to conduct research regarding educational instruction and healthy mental health practices during the ongoing pandemic.

“We know our students and educators have had a difficult year,” Gov. Murphy said in a press release. “Providing our school communities with increased flexibility and support is essential to move our education system forward. The additional federal funds will allow districts to best meet the individual needs of their students during this challenging time.”

The priorities of the “The Road Forward” initiative are to address the learning gap that has widened with virtual instruction, as well as how to best treat the mental health issues that have come along with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“New Jersey is almost done closing its digital divide, and with the Learning Acceleration Grant, now our state can work toward closing its learning gap,” President of the American Federation of Teachers New Jersey Donna M. Chiera said in a release. “The pandemic has certainly exacerbated emotional disorders, so the Mental Health Grant will go a long way in supporting our students and educators in need.”

In order to fully bridge the digital divide, the grants will help fund solutions such as tutoring, after-school programs, summer programs, and mental health support for students and staff, Executive Director of JerseyCAN Patricia Morgan said.

The funds will be made available by the DOE on March 15. The DOE will collect data to monitor sufficient student growth and examining if the students are up to grade-level standards.

By this fall, the DOE will release an assessment to all districts called “Start Strong,” which will aid in helping schools collect student performance data. Additionally, the department will run a pilot for the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment this fall in order to measure school readiness for incoming kindergarteners to help teachers understand where their students stand.

You can check out more information about the program here.

This article was produced by a Follow South Jersey news intern thanks to a grant provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through the New Jersey Health Initiatives program to create hyper-local news to meet the informational and health needs of the City of Bridgeton, N.J.