Job action threat lingers as Lakewood schools set to open Friday
LAKEWOOD — Tension remains between the teachers union and the school district as classes are set to begin on Friday under the threat of a possible job action.
The township school district is one of 60 whose approved return to school plan does not include a hybrid plan beyond the virtual option required by the state. The Lakewood Education Association has objected to the plan because they do not believe the schools are safe. Teachers held a drive-by protest during the Board of Education meeting on Aug. 26 to express their anger.
Lakewood Middle School will be the only district building not to open because construction of four classroom modulars will not be complete until Saturday, according to school district attorney Michael Izelbuch.
"Mayor Coles, to his credit, is having inspection on Sunday, provided the work is ready," Inzelbuch told New Jersey 101.5.
A possible late adjustment to the plan for a hybrid plan at the middle school, which is the most crowded school in the district, will not immediately be implemented after discussion between union president Kimberly Shaw and Inzelbuch.
"We are still considering the middle school but the union has said they will not accept anything but total closure until a week ago. Now it's only if total hybrid at every school. The data does not reflect that that should occur," Inzelbuch said.
Inzelbuch said he expects all staff to report for work on Friday morning.
"It is illegal to strike or do a work action, as the law is clear. It's not what I expect, it's what the law requires," Inzelbuch said.
Union spokeswoman Dawn Hiltner said on Thursday afternoon members are still discussing whether or not they will have a work stoppage. Members are also concerned about whether or not the middle school was properly cleaned and prepared for classes.
"There was trash, there was things written on the board from March. Nothing had been wiped down and cleaned," Hiltner said. "Their plan looks great on paper, checks all the boxes, but in practice it doesn't really do what it says it's going to do."
Hiltner said members have tried to contact Ocean County Superintendent of Schools Kevin W. Ahearn, who she said stopped taking their calls and referred them to the county health department.
Inzelbuch denied Hiltner's allegations and said he invited the health department to tour the middle school.
"They came and said you're ready to go. We're not hiding that the middle school has been overcrowded for years," Inzelbuch said.