Jersey City supt. talks remote learning, which will continue through Nov., with JC Together

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Jersey City Together hosted an online zoom forum with Superintendent of Schools Franklin Walker last night to discuss some of the challenges and concerns surrounding remote learning for the upcoming school year.

Town Hall with JCPS Superintendent Franklin Walker

Town Hall with JCPS Superintendent Franklin WalkerJoin Jersey City Together Education Team leaders for a conversation with Jersey City Superintendent Franklin Walker about the new school year and what to expect. Register for the Zoom webinar here: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_qdprXIF4R6STjBWJP0cagQ

Posted by New Jersey Together on Thursday, September 3, 2020

By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View

Bridget D’Souza, an organizer with Jersey City Together and parent with children in the public schools, co-moderated the forum with Iraya Corley.

She said parents had expressed concerns related to technology, instructional format, special education, and social/emotional well-being up to this point.

“There’s a lack of communications across the board,” D’Souza said.

She said some parents are wary of remote learning, which Walker and other school officials said yesterday will go through at least Mid-November, and want to learn the school schedule.

“We want to ensure parents go into the school year with all the information they need,” said Corley.

Walker said in March, the district distributed 3,800 Chromebooks for students to learn remotely, and the district had extras. Now there seem to be additional requests.

He indicated that 10,000 devices have been ordered, but many are on backorder, with some not expected to arrive until October. In May, JC Together pushed for investments into the schools in light of Chromebook shortages and staff cuts.

“Our goal in the district is to have a Chromebook for every student,” Walker stated. “We ask parents if they don’t need one, hold off on the request.”

He said iPads and laptops would suffice in the mean time.

There are a few extra Chromebooks in the central office, but parents need to contact their school first, the superintendent indicated, since certain schools might have the ability to transfer.

Walker also said a lot of information regarding remote learning has been put on the district and the school websites.

For those who do not have internet access hot spots, the district has provided a list of resources available to parents to obtain internet access for their children.

Walker said that professional development instruction has been held for teachers to become adept at managing the technology so they can hold classes online.

“I feel very good with what’s going to happen starting on the 10th,” Walker said regarding the first day of remote learning.

Walker noted that via-G Suite and the Google classroom, teachers and students are able to communicate on a regular basis. It also allows students to do small group work.

“If a parent hasn’t heard from the school what is the district doing?” D’Souza asked.

“They need to call the school,” Walker responded, adding that staff is available to help. “There’s staff in the building.”

If that fails, “They can go by there,” Walker continued, noting staffers are in the schools to handle such requests. If there are no staffers, they can mention the issue to security in a worst-case scenario who will relay the issue.

D’Souza said some have experienced that precise issue already.

“How will children who need in-person instruction receive the services they need?” Corley questioned.

Walker said that through Google classrooms, special needs children should be able to receive all the support they need.

Special needs students will be able to receive more direct instruction from teachers versus pre-recorded videos being used more for standard classes.

“As we move forward, we’ll monitor what goes on,” Walker said. He added the teacher and child study teams will still be available for parents to help.

In addition, appointments can be made by the parents to address special issues.

“If the team is not responsive, like anything else, they should reach out,” Walker reiterated.

D’Souza said there is a lot of anxiety among students after so much time in isolation. Many students were said to be “sad” and having emotional difficulty coping with the situation.

“We recognize this pandemic has been a traumatizing time for students,” the superintendent acknowledged.

He explained that a structure has been built into Google classroom that encourages students to voice their emotions to cope, and time in the class schedule has been allocated to discuss such issues where they can role play different scenarios.

“We have to find ways for them to express and say ‘it’s ok to feel whatever you’re feeling, but you can’t let it be destructive,’” Walker noted.

Guidance counselors are also significantly involved in the process, as well as different apps on social/emotional learning available to students Walker said.

“Some of the anxieties … and butterflies, of a new school year, they’re heightened this year,” Walker said.

The moderators said there’s a fear among parents that the district will be overwhelmed with requests for assistance from guidance counselors and insufficient internet bandwidth necessary for school work.

“We’re prepared … It has been a challenging time,” the superintendent remarked.

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