NEWARK, N.J. (PIX11) — Newark Public Schools students will be required to wear masks when classes start in two weeks, as the district faces overcrowded classrooms because of a teacher shortage.
John Abeigon, the head of Newark Teachers Union, is on board with masking up.
“We have Penn Station, tens of thousands of people go through it everyday. We have the airport. We have all the restaurants … People come in and out of the city by the tens of thousands every day. We can’t monitor all of them,” Abeigon said.
In total, 95% of Newark’s 6,000 school staff members are fully vaccinated. But children in New Jersey are among the lowest, according to the health department. Only 4% of 5- to 11-year-olds have two doses. Five percent of 12- to 15-year-olds are fully vaccinated, and just 3% of 16 and 17-year-olds received two jabs.
“There’s going to be some musical chairs because of the teacher shortage and finding the right fit in some of the buildings,” Abeigon said.
The Newark Teachers Union estimates the district is short 200 teachers. Superintendent Roger Leon said there are fewer than 100 vacancies to fill. The district is trying to lure teachers with a higher starting salary of $62,000 per year to help teach Newark’s 38,000 students.
“Currently in schools they are using as much space as possible to afford children an educational experience. Our footprint is building new schools, renovating other locations.” said Leon.