Parents sue Scotch Plains-Fanwood district to open schools
Five parents are going to court to demand an end to remote learning in the Scotch Plains-Fanwood district.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday against Superintendent Joan Mast and the Board of Education argues that the "unconstitutional, random and arbitrary continued shutdown of in-school learning" has resulted isolation and ineffective education for students.
Mast said in a message to the district on Aug. 23 that a delay in the replacement of filters in school buildings would delay the start of in-person learning until Nov. 20. But an increase in positive coronavirus cases statewide, including 15 positive cases impacting six schools and 84 people in quarantine, delayed the start of classroom instruction until Jan. 19, according to a message from Mast on Nov. 15.
Mast's latest message on Wednesday said K-6 schools would open on a hybrid schedule on Jan. 14. Pre-K and grades 7-12 will reopen on Jan. 19. The dates were selected to allow for quarantining time for anyone who traveled or attended a large gathering during the holidays.
Danielle Wildstein, who has a child attending Coles Elementary School, told New Jersey 101.5 that parents have been trying to get answers from Mast since August.
"We have tirelessly tried to get credible, founded information about why our schools are kept closed," she said, adding that parents have held two rallies, sent emails to district leaders and attended school board meetings.
Wildstein said Mast responds to phone calls and emails in generalities.
The lawsuit claims there is "no evidence that school aged children are at risk of COVID-19 in a school setting, any more than they are elsewhere in the community and said surrounding districts in Clark, Mountainside and Berkeley Heights have been hybrid since school started in September.
"We felt this was the only way to get our schools open and stay open and not close arbitrarily," Wildstein said about the lawsuit.
New Jersey leaves the decision whether to hold in-school, remote or hybrid classes up to local districts. All schools, however, must make all-remote learning an option for those who want it.
Remote learning puts students at a disadvantage, according to the lawsuit, which describes it as "inconsistent, but in far too many cases it is tragically disastrous and far too many students receive little or no instruction of value, all while being isolated from friends and teachers."
Mast did not immediately respond to New Jersey 101.5's request on Thursday for reaction to the lawsuit.
The parents are represented by Long Island attorney James Mermigis, who has filed lawsuits on behalf of the owners of the Attilis Gym in Bellmawr who opened their facility during the pandemic despite executive orders that kept them closed. Mermigis also filed a half dozen lawsuits against the state of New York on behalf of small businesses forced to close and against New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio over closed schools.