Jersey City BOE president blames district administration for the ‘failure’ to reopen | #Education

The Jersey City school board president is giving the superintendent a big fat “F.”

The public schools should reopen next week, says Board of Education President Mussab Ali, who is placing the blame directly on the district administration’s “failure” to accomplish what so many other districts across the state have done.

Superintendent Franklin Walker on Sunday sent a robocall out to parents announcing that the district would not make its long-awaited reopening on April 26 due to a lack of teachers willing to return to their classrooms amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The surprise decision to keep the district’s 30,000 students remote was met with sharp criticism from Mayor Steve Fulop and a vocal group of parents who had circled April 26 on their calendars. It was also a sigh of relief for parents who still think it’s too early for in-person learning.

Ali says the schools should reopen for the first time since March 2020, even on a limited basis.

“I think that even if we couldn’t fully reopen, we should’ve done a soft reopening where it is kindergarten to third grade and special education students who come back,” Ali said. “I think the fact the administration wasn’t even able to accomplish that, it’s a failure …

“Across the board here, there are things that should’ve gotten done that didn’t get done. But again, the board doesn’t have the ability to change what happens.”

Jersey City is one of just 69 school districts exclusively using remote learning, according to the state Department of Education. More than 500 school districts — including Newark, the state’s largest — are back to in-person learning on a hybrid plan and 186 schools have fully reopened.

Fulop is blaming the elected school board for the failure to reopen, city spokesman Kimberly Wallace-Scalcione said. When asked if Fulop is reconsidering a referendum to change the board from an elected body to an appointed board, which he pulled in May 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she did not answer.

“The mayor is disappointed in the Board of Education, but he doesn’t want to make this about politics and the appointed board,” Wallace-Scalcione said. “It makes no sense as every other city around us has been able to offer in-person instructions, but for some reason the Jersey City schools have failed.”

Last month Jersey City dedicated more than 2,000 vaccine doses for local teachers in an effort to get them back in the classroom. District officials and the teachers union have both said they don’t know how many teachers have been vaccinated.

Walker defended his decision to keep students remote at Monday’s BOE caucus. “If there is a way that you can tell me or someone else can tell me how we can do this,” Walker said. “I am open to it.”

The board’s disapproval over his decision is the first for Walker, who has continued to have the board’s support throughout his tenure as superintendent. Walker told the board there were not enough teachers to handle classes for the students that would have returned.

The district has said that 20% of students would have returned, according to a survey the district asked parents to fill out and return. Parents who want the school open say the 20% figure is way off, and a majority of students want to get back in the classroom.

Ali asked Walker what more the board could do to prepare the schools for September. Ali suggested increasing the substitute teacher pay from $125 to $200 could help the district get enough people to cover teachers unable to work in person. Come September, Jersey City teachers and students may not have a choice.

“The governor expects all districts to provide in-person instruction in the fall,” DOE spokesman Shaheed Morris said. “If the current vaccine allocations and health trends proceed as anticipated, we anticipate that the vast majority of students will be able to attend school full-time in person this coming fall. “

The school board will have its first in-person meeting on Thursday at Middle School 7 on Laidlaw Avenue. No more than 100 people will be allowed in the building, Ali said. The meeting will still be streamed on Facebook.



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