Jersey City Public Schools won’t resume in-person learning until September, supt. says

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The Jersey City Public Schools won’t resume in-person learning until the next scholastic year in September due to a lack of necessary staff, Superintendent Franklin Walker said in a robocall last night.

Superintendent of Schools Franklin Walker. Photo via jcboe.org.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

” … Unfortunately, we cannot open. The staff we need for adequate supervision and instruction is not available. On Thursday, we had 458 instruction staff absent and then close to 500 on Friday,” Walker said in the pre-recorded message to parents.

“The numbers do not include medical and maternity leave that routinely effects the district. We can’t open schools with teachers and paraprofessionals working from home. Over 400 people submitted requests based on increased risk for COVID-19. While they’ve met the medical requirements, the district cannot provide in-person instruction without them and does not have substitutes to work in schools while they work from home.”

Walker’s decision came without any formal input from the Jersey City Board of Education trustees.

Early last month, Walker announced that the JCPS were on pace to reopen in the fourth marking period, noting that the district would be working with the city to get teachers their COVID-19 vaccinations as soon as possible.

However, on Wednesday, teachers who applied for medical exemptions were shocked to find out they’d have to report to school the next day – which was less than 24 hours notice, as only HCV reported.

In an email to JCPS staff Sunday evening, Jersey City Education Association President Ron Greco recommended gathering their belongings tomorrow and being prepared to return to remote learning on Tuesday, despite district plans to the contrary.

” … The entire plan is botched. None of the stakeholders were ever brought to the table. After a one-sided conversation with Dr. [Norma] Fernandez on Friday, another major decision was made without any advance notice. She has demonstrated over and over that she has no interest in engaging us in any conversations,” Greco wrote.

“We the Teachers, Teacher Aides, and Para Professionals will not be made to be the scapegoats before the public eye due to a complete failure of this reopening plan on the part of Dr. Fernandez. We were willing to return to school and those of us needing an accommodation were willing to continue teaching remotely.”

He continued that if they receive written letters of reprimand, they will file a grievance and appeal to PERC.

In a Facebook post, Mayor Steven Fulop blasted the district, calling this move “a failure in leadership” and also urging them to reconsider.

“I don’t know how else to describe this other than an absolute failure in leadership and planning at the JCPS and I’m saddened for the families, children, and those dedicated teachers that were hoping to return,” he wrote.

“I struggle with the fact that our Jersey City public schools couldn’t figure out some version of in-person learning when Newark, NYC, Hoboken, and virtually every surrounding district has been able to reinstitute some form of in-person learning.”

In his own statement released this morning, Ward E Councilman James Solomon said that parents, students, and teachers deserve better.

“As a parent who spent part of the pandemic juggling work and kids, I know that the parents, students, and teachers deserve better than Jersey City Public Schools’ cancellation of hybrid school. Once the commitment to reopen was made, people planned around it,” he said.

“To pull the plug right out from under them a week from the reopening date is wrong. I am calling on the superintendent, school board, and teachers union to sit down until they arrive at a solution.”

The North Bergen and West New York Public Schools resumed in-person learning today, with Bayonne and Union City scheduling a May 3rd return for students.

1 COMMENT

  1. As a mom of two who attend Jersey City school, it’s hard not to be saddened and angered by this news. This has been the second time school reopening has been canceled (they had canceled a reopening in November 2020 and now again). By now, my kids have been home for over a year. Teachers are essential workers and they should return to work in person. The Robocall from the district is citing teachers unwilling to return to school, but it failed to provide details such as by school data – what’s the total number of teachers in each school and what is the number of teachers not returning in each school. If some schools cannot reopen due to lack of teachers, let it be. Others can open as scheduled. It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing. This will give some peer pressures to schools not being able to open, too. The district has failed the children, parents, dedicated teachers, and tax payers in Jersey City. We demand answers.

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