Thousands sign petition asking Gov. Murphy to allow virtual learning choice this school year

Thousands of families in New Jersey are petitioning Gov. Phil Murphy to allow an option for virtual learning for the upcoming school year.
The governor has been steadfast in his push for all students to return to the classroom after many have been virtual or hybrid during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But for many of these families, the thought of children returning to the classroom is creating fear and anxiety. They want an option for virtual learning so that they can keep their children at home.
Lauren Murphy’s son, Trey, is going into the second grade. He attended virtual classes last year, and his mother wants to keep it that way. This is because Trey’s baby sister Mackenzie is battling leukemia, making her high risk for everything from COVID-19 to the common cold. The 7-year-old says that he will do anything to protect his sister.
“I’m kind of nervous because I don’t want to get it and pass it to my sister, and like, I cannot let that happen,” Trey says.
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Lauren Murphy says that her son has been talking to a therapist about the situation.
The Murphy family is not alone in their concern. Some 20,000 people have signed a petition asking Gov. Murphy to allow virtual learning. Schools must have a virtual plan, but only to be used in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak.
“We’re just asking right now for those that are high-risk, who have underlying issues – let those children stay home,” says mother Deborah Odore.
Odore says that she wants both of her children home to protect her 10-year-old son who has autism and heart and brain issues. It is something that impacts her 8-year-old daughter as well.
“It’s emotional. She’s more aware we have to protect her brother. That there’s a germ out there and it’s dangerous. She’s developed anxiety – severe. She does see a therapist to help her understand,” Odore says.
Bridgewater-Raritan just approved homeschooling for them, with one-on-one instruction with a teacher for two hours. Odore has been pushing to get this for six months.
It is unclear if this option will be available to Lauren Murphy’s family in Maywood. But what is clear is that the family can’t handle anyone else getting sick.
"We spent months and months at a time at a hospital. We've seen things no parent should have to see, and I don't want that for others,” Lauren Murphy says. “Not everybody wants the same choice as me, but I want a choice to make sure I can keep my kids and myself healthy."
The governor has implemented a mask mandate in all of New Jersey’s schools, and all teachers and staff must be vaccinated. But the mandates are not doing much to alleviate the families’ fears. Masks aren’t always enforced; social distancing can be difficult to manage, and the vaccines are not 100% effective.