NJ school district votes for all-remote learning, cites teacher and parent preference

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ELIZABETH, N.J. — The Elizabeth School District expects to start the school year off on an all-remote curriculum amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The district’s Board of Education unanimously approved the proposal in an online vote Monday night following a presentation outlining the plan.

“I truly feel that this is the only way to go about opening schools in September. I know that it’s difficult for parents … I know that parents have to go to work,” board member Maria Carvalho said during the meeting. “I understand that there’s a need for us to open schools, but it’s just not safe.”

A district-wide reevaluation on whether to continue with remote learning will be held at the end of the first marking period based on health conditions at that time.

The decision to shift to a remote learning model was made with the consideration of separate surveys given to parents and staff members over the summer, according to the board members.

Of the nearly 10,000 parents who filled out the survey between July 27 and Aug. 10, 59% said they would not send their child back to school in September and 41% said they would.

The district also sent surveys to 4,084 staff members, 1,373 of whom responded. Of the educators who were surveyed, 52.8% said their first choice for a reopening plan was an all-remote model.

Another 18.3% voted for an alternating days plan; 15.3% wanted alternating weeks; 10% said all students should be in school with an option for parents to choose remote learning; and 3.6% supported in-person elementary learning and remote high school education.

The top three concerns from staff who completed the survey included risk of exposure to COVID-19, the ability to implement health and safety protocols and following recommended guidelines from health experts.

“We’re in a pandemic … and it’s more important for us to keep everyone safe right now,” Carvalho said. “And as soon as we can open those doors, we’ll be there with open arms.”

Gov. Phil Murphy and the state Department of Education issued guidance in June that requires public schools to open in some capacity this coming academic year.

However, Elizabeth is not the only district to buck the guidance. Jersey City’s school board voted last week to begin the academic year on an all-remote model.

Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop told PIX11 Tuesday morning that the guidance from the state was a “recommendation.”

The Elizabeth School District was expected to submit its all-remote learning plan to the state on Tuesday.

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