This week we were joined by 292 participants for an update which focused on K-12 schools. We discussed the impact of shutting schools down on teachers, staff, parents and students and the challenges of reopening our schools.

We were joined by Cary Booker, Assistant State Education Commissioner, State of New Jersey who acknowledged the sacrifices of educators and their families to meet the needs of their students. Assistant Commissioner Booker spoke to the inequities that plagued our education system long before COVID-19, their effect on remote instruction and food instability, and the state’s efforts to address them. As we look to reopen, Assistant Commissioner Booker emphasized the importance of addressing students’ social and emotional needs, that measures are being taken to reopen safely and that “the way forward is together.”

Rosie Grant, Executive Director. Paterson Education Foundation spoke to her organization’s efforts. Lack of internet and electronic devices have left many students behind in Paterson, 11,000 students still have no ability to access online learning. In addition, Paterson is addressing a 16-million-dollar loss in state aid, creating a budget shortfall that may tragically result in staff cuts in a time when we need more staff, not less.

NJEA Organizational Development Field Representatives Michael Rollins and Robert Antonelli were joined by Bill Henning, Business Manager, OPEIU Local 32.  They spoke about the need for strong safety protocols to be in place to ensure that schools are safe and healthy for everyone as we look to reopen.