There Will Always Be a Lakewood

Well, that didn’t go well.

Right before last week’s Thanksgiving break, all Lakewood staff members received a letter from Superintendent Laura Winters requiring them to sign an affadavit swearing that they would adhere to certain COVID-19 guidelines. From the letter:

All employees, consultants and third party vendors, must follow all safety practices, including practicing hand hygiene, self-monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms, maintaining social distancing and wearing appropriate PPE, while at the workplace, in the community, at events, and small gathering that include cohorts outside of your immediate family, if the COVID-19 health and safety protocols are to be effective.

No other district has asked staff members to adhere to guidelines outside of school facilities. But this is Lakewood.

Winters’s letter drew immediate condemnation from Lakewood Education Association and its mothership, NJEA. From the Asbury Park Press:

NJEA spokeswoman Dawn Hiltner said that the local union, the Lakewood Education Association, believes it’s important to follow COVID-19 guidelines issued by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention  for a safe holiday. “But the union objects to the district imposing a ‘contract’ on its members,” she said.

“It’s kind of ironic that the district expects the staff to adhere to CDC recommendations outside of school when it is unwilling to enforce them in school buildings,” she added. “The district needs to get its own house in order before it starts dictating what staff does outside of school.”

Upon NJEA and LEA’s response, Winters “reconsidered” and rescinded the letter. At last count, Lakewood has had about 60 cases of COVID within its schools as it continues with full-day in-school instruction. Here is the full letter:

November 24, 2020

Good Afternoon,

As you are aware, the Lakewood School District values all students, staff members and their families.

Despite the challenges we have, all of us have a lot to be thankful for, especially our in-person instruction. However, this year, we have to be thankful at a distance, in order to protect the ones we love the most!

In order to mitigate any challenges to a continued healthy school environment, upon our return to school on November 30, 2020, the District will have all staff members certify the below statement on SAFE SCHOOLS.

All employees, consultants, and third party vendors of the Lakewood School District agree that preventing the spread of COVID-19 and maintaining a safe and healthy working environment is of utmost importance.

This shared goal can only be achieved through the participation, support and commitment of each and every employee, consultant and third party vendor.

It is each individual’s responsibility and duty to comply with all protocols and procedures that New Jersey Governor, Phil Murphy has put into place, not only for the individual’s own protection, but also for the protection of others in the community and workplace.

All Lakewood School District employees, consultants and third party vendors must follow all recommendations and procedures put forth by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

All employees, consultants and third party vendors, must follow all safety practices, including practicing hand hygiene, self-monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms, maintaining social distancing and wearing appropriate PPE, while at the workplace, in the community, at events, and small gathering that include cohorts outside of your immediate family, if the COVID-19 health and safety protocols are to be effective.

Individuals must recognize that when it comes to COVID-19, their actions outside the workplace have an impact on the health and safety of those they encounter in the workplace, and so it is important to exercise good judgment and maintain safety practices when not at the workplace.

Lakewood Board of Education
200 Ramsey Avenue, Lakewood, NJ 08701 Main Office: (732) 364-2400 Fax: (732) 905-3687

I, _____________________, have followed all safety practices, including
practicing hand hygiene, self-monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms, maintaining social distancing and wearing appropriate PPE, while at the workplace, in the community, at events, and small gathering that include cohorts outside of my immediate family. I have followed recommendations and procedures made by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in order to
ensure a safe, health work environment at the Lakewood School District.

Dated: _____________________________________

Respectfully,

Laura A. Winters
Superintendent of Schools

cc:
Principals
Supervisors
Kevin Campbell, Assistant Business Administrator
Dave Shafter, State Monitor
Moshe Bender, Board President
Members of the Board of Education
General Counsel Michael I. Inzelbuch, Esquire

What do you think?