The president of the New Jersey Education Association and two other top state education advocates told Gov. Phil Murphy on Tuesday that they want public schools to reopen remotely in September, eschewing in-person learning during the coronavirus pandemic.
NJEA president Marie Blistan, New Jersey Association of School Administrators executive Director Richard Bozza and New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association executive director Patricia Wright want the governor to make the decision on a statewide basis and not put decision-making in the hands of local school districts.
“Reopening schools for in-person instruction under the current conditions poses too great a risk to the health of students and schools staff. The question of whether and when to reopen for in-person instruction is first and foremost a public health decision that cannot be left in the hands of nearly 600 individual school districts,” Blistan, Bozza and Wright said in a statement. “The stakes are too high, and the consequences of a wrong decision are too grave.”
The wishes of the teacher’s union will weigh heavily on Murphy, who has counted Blistan and the NJEA as among his most important political supporters.
“With less than a month remaining before schools are scheduled to reopen, it is time to reluctantly acknowledge that goal is simply not achievable,” the three said. “Reopening schools for in-person instruction under the current conditions poses too great a risk to the health of students and schools staff.”
They indicated support for in-person learning “as soon as the science and data say we can do so responsibly and when the resources are available in our school buildings to do it safely.”
The education leaders have asked for universal health standards and say local school districts “have struggled to meet even the minimum standards that were provided. Inadequate levels of funding, staffing, equipment and facilities will result in inequities in the level of safety afforded to all New Jersey students.”
“We wish it could be different, but the facts are not in our favor. Our nation is in the middle of an uncontrolled pandemic. Our state, while doing better than many others, has not yet stopped the spread of this virus, particularly among the same young people who are scheduled to return to school in under four weeks,” Blistan, Bozza and Wright said. “New Jersey’s communities are still at risk, and putting students and staff inside school buildings, even with exceptional precautions, increases that risk.”