West New York teachers taking leaves of absence after hearing of new reopening plan details

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West New York teachers are taking leaves of absence after hearing new details about next week’s reopening plans that would require them to return to their classrooms, even though students will be learning remotely.

West New York teachers at Public School No. 2 in 2017. Facebook photo.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“This is very disappointing, a slap in the face. At this point, all we’re really looking for is just so people have the option to stay home due to child care or medical issues,” West New York Education Association President Anita Kober told HCV.

“There are many that can and are willing to go in, but there’s that 10 percent who have kids that are learning remote and there’s no child care [option]. It’s disheartening to know that you dedicate your life to this craft … and you’re not even given the option. You either come in or you take a leave.”

Kober said that at last night’s board of education meeting, 13 to 15 leaves were approved and at least another 20 have been submitted today.

Some West New York parents expressed that last night was the first they heard that teachers would need to return to their schools for remote learning to commence next week.

One of the most vocal of that group is Elizabeth Bergman, a mother of two kindergarteners who is dismayed by the fact that she is not only unsure how the school day will be structured, but who will actually be teaching.

“I have two young students in the West New York schools and the teachers are amazing, it’s been a great experience, but now it was a shock for parents to hear that teachers would be expected to come back during remote learning,” she said over the phone.

“As teachers request a leave of absence, the classrooms will be left to be run by substitute teachers. Remote learning is going to challenging enough as it is, and without trained educators … could be disastrous and leave our children behind.”

Bergman has also started a Change.org petition that has over 300 signatures asking for West New York teachers to have the choice to do their jobs remotely.

West New York Board of Education President Adam Parkinson said that students are always the district’s top priority and that leaves will be evaluated individually.

“Our big goal is making sure that the kids get the best education that they possibly can … Administration and human resources is looking at each leave on a case by case basis.”

Parkinson also noted that their remote learning plan was introduced at the board’s August 5th meeting, is on the district website, and has been reposted on all of their social media pages.

Early last month, the WNYEA came out against an immediate return to in-person learning, as HCV first reported, and the public schools decided by the middle of the month that they would stick to a virtual plan through at least September.