NJ schools going all remote for fall, sparking parent protests
A few recent decisions by New Jersey school districts to start the new year all-remote instead of attempting in-person school instruction have been met with parental resistance.
The Scotch Plains-Fanwood district notified families late Friday night, Aug. 14, that concern over building ventilation systems prompted a switch to all-virtual learning after initially having planned to begin with a hybrid learning model that split students' time at home and school.
In response, about 40 parents showed up Tuesday to rally outside Park Middle School, carrying signs with messages like "Be a hero, teach in person" and "Listen to us," as reported by NJ.com.
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The main issue was that HVAC systems in the district's eight schools are not equipped "to accept MERV 13 filters, thus requiring alternatives to provide additional air filtering," schools Superintendent Joan Mast said in a letter posted on the district website.
Similarly in Bergen County, a few dozen families in Teaneck turned out Monday for a protest outside Thomas Jefferson Middle School, as reported by NorthJersey.com.
The Teaneck district announced Aug. 14 that it would be rolling back a hybrid learning model and instead opt for remote-only instructions for the first marking period, with plans to reassess in October, according to schools Superintendent Christopher Irving.
Scotch Plains Mayor Al Smith said Tuesday that while he's disappointed that the in-school option is off the table, he supports the district's decision to protect the health of the community.
Smith and Mast mentioned the challenges families face in balancing childcare and work.
As of Wednesday, the state Department of Education was aware of about 140 districts selecting all-remote as their first choice of learning to begin instruction due to coronavirus concerns, following the Aug. 12 announcement by Gov. Phil Murphy that it would be an option.
Murphy also said Wednesday that school districts resubmitting plans to begin the year with all-remote learning must cite specific health and safety reasons for the change, and provide a timeline to get to in-person instruction.