Jersey City public schools won’t reopen until September

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Though teachers were back in their school buildings last week to prepare for the April 26 reopening, Jersey City Public School District’s Superintendent Franklin Walker announced that children won’t return to in-person learning until September.

“Unfortunately, we can not open,” said Walker in a robocall to district parents. “The staff we need for adequate supervision and instruction is not available. On Thursday we had 458 instructional staff absent and then close to 500 on Friday. Those numbers do not include the medical and maternity leaves that routinely affect the district. We can not open schools with teachers and paraprofessionals working from home.”

Walker said over 400 people submitted requests to work from home due to the increased risk of COVID-19 and met the medical requirements to do so, but “the district cannot provide in-person instruction without them and does not have substitutes to work in school while they work from home.”

He also noted that prior to reopening, the district conducted a survey of parents and the “overwhelming majority” were in favor of remaining with remote learning.

He said the district will now focus its efforts and resources on a full in-person reopening in September.

Since March 2020, Jersey City public school students have been home and learning remotely, and the date for when schools would reopen with a hybrid model has been pushed back several times throughout the pandemic, from September 2020 to February and most recently April 26.

During the past several school board meetings, parents have asked for schools to reopen with many saying they wanted the option to send their children for in-person instruction or to opt for continued remote learning. Others noted that not everyone can work from home and help their children with remote learning.

Mayor Steven Fulop said the district’s decision not to reopen was an “absolute failure in leadership.”

“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,” wrote Fulop on Facebook. “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.”