Despite improvements in COVID-19 numbers and more people getting vaccinated, New Jersey’s second-largest school district will stay remote until at least September.
Students at the Jersey City School District were supposed to go to a hybrid schedule next Monday but the plan has been put on hold, a robocall informed parents on Sunday night. Superintendent Franklin Walker said the reopening was pushed back due to teacher shortage and other workers declining to return to school buildings.
This means the district’s 30,000 students will stay with remote learning through the rest of the school year. Just 20 percent of students told the district's survey back in March that they want to return to physical classrooms, NJ.com reported, and most families didn't respond.
"The safety of our children and staff is the utmost priority for us," Walker said. "I cannot in good faith reopen the schools with the risks of COVID-19 far outweigh the potential gains from 12 half days of in-person learning for a small minority of children in the district."
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Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop called the delay "an absolute failure in leadership and planning."
"I’m saddened for the families, children, and those dedicated teachers that were hoping to return," he wrote in a Facebook post. "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. The damage that this decision will do is significant and I hope they reconsider."
With summer not far too away and the region making progress against COVID-19, the school district now aims to have all students return to in-person learning by September. The same goal is set for nearby Newark and New York City.
Newark Public Schools just last week welcomed students back in a hybrid reopening model that has students returning for in-person classes two days a week. Similar to Jersey City, the ongoing challenges of the pandemic led to three prior back-to-school dates that were pushed. The delay was due to many factors including installation of ventilators, rise in cases and safety concerns from the teachers' union.