The New Jersey Legislature recently advanced several bills that impact school districts. The legislation addresses the following issues: quarantine requirements for students and staff who travel out-of-state during the COVID-19 pandemic, funding school meals, and returning school districts to local control.

Quarantine of Students and Staff

The Senate recently passed legislation that would require students, teaching staff, and other school district employees to quarantine after traveling out of the country or to a state subject to a quarantine travel advisory. Senate Bill 2401 specifically provides that if a student, teaching staff member, or other employee of a school district travels outside of the United States or inside of a designated state during a state of public health emergency due to the spread of a contagious disease, then the person cannot return to the public school until the termination of the public health emergency, the completion of fourteen (14) calendar days following the date of return to the State of New Jersey,  the removal of the designated state from the quarantine travel advisory, or the receipt of a negative test for the contagious disease following the date of return to the State of New Jersey, whichever occurs first. 

A public school student whose absence is mandated under the bill would have the absence recorded as an excused absence on the student’s attendance record or on that of any group or class of which the student is a member. Senate Bill 2401 further provides that a student, teaching staff member, or other employee of a school district may participate in virtual or remote instruction during any period in which the person’s physical absence is required.  

The legislation is now pending before the Assembly Education Committee. If signed into law by Governor Phil Murphy, Senate Bill 2401 would take effect immediately.

Establishment of School Meal Fund

The Assembly recently passed legislation requiring school districts to establish a “School Meal Fund” for the purpose of accepting donations to assist students with the purchase of school breakfast or school lunch and to fund any arrears in students’ school breakfast or lunch bills. Under Assembly Bill 1632, the fund would be established through the adoption of a resolution by the board of education.  The board must also adopt a policy that ensures the fiscal accountability of the fund and outlines the standards that will be applied in making a determination to disburse moneys from the School Meal Fund.

The legislation further mandates that all School Meal Fund moneys be maintained in a separate bank account. In addition, the fund must be reduced by all costs related to the operation of the fund, including bank service fees and direct administrative costs for the oversight and management of the fund.  Any funds remaining at the end of the fiscal year must be carried forward into subsequent fiscal years and utilized solely for the purposes of the School Meal Fund.

A board of education must accept monetary donations, for deposit into the board’s School Meal Fund, from any person or entity for the purposes of assisting students with the purchase of school breakfast or school lunch and satisfying any arrears of school meal bills of students. Assembly Bill 1632 also directs a board of education to provide, through written and electronic means, information to the parents and guardians of students enrolled in the school district and to other residents of the school district and community organizations regarding the establishment of the fund, its purposes, and the procedures to be followed to make a donation to the fund. The information must also be posted in a prominent location on the school district’s Internet website.

The legislation is now under consideration by the Senate Education Committee. If signed into law by Governor Phil Murphy, Assembly Bill 1632 would become effective immediately.

Return of Schools to Local Control

The Assembly unanimously passed legislation that provides that in the case of a school district under partial or full State intervention, the State must withdraw from the area of school district effectiveness which is under intervention, if the district satisfies eighty percent (80%) or more of the quality performance indicators in the evaluation that is conducted every three years under the New Jersey Quality Single Accountability Continuum (NJ QSAC) and in the school year immediately following that evaluation. Assembly Bill 1040 further provides that the Commissioner of Education and the State Board of Education may not use any other factor in making the determination to withdraw from an area of school district effectiveness if the district meets or exceeds the eighty percent (80%) threshold. Assembly Bill 1040 is now pending before the Senate Education Committee and if signed into law by Governor Phil Murphy, would also take effect immediately.

If you have questions, please contact us

If you have any questions or if you would like to discuss the matter further, please contact me, Keith Campbell, or the Scarinci Hollenbeck attorney with whom you work, at 201-896-4100.