All schools and colleges ordered closed in New Jersey

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has announced the closure of all schools and colleges starting Wednesday in response to the growing coronavirus outbreak.

The state’s more than 600 school districts will be affected. Most of them had already closed. The order applies to all public and private preschools, elementary and secondary schools, and institutions of higher education.

"In order to slow the spread of COVID-19, we must take aggressive and direct social distancing action to curtail non-essential activities in the state," Gov. Phil Murphy said. "Our paramount priority is to 'flatten the curve' of new cases, so we do not overwhelm our health care system and overload our health care professionals who are on the frontlines of the response."

The announcement comes as New Jersey’s Assembly is set to vote on more than two dozen bills aimed at confronting COVID-19.

The Democrat-led chamber has scheduled committee and floor votes on Monday on 25 measures, including one that sets aside $20 million to the Education Department for cleaning schools and one that requires districts to offer meals or meal vouchers to students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals during school.

"These are extraordinary times, and educators throughout the state have been taking extraordinary measures to create plans for high-quality home instruction, ensure food security for children who depend on free and reduced lunch, and provide services for all special needs students," Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet said.