Jersey City and Trenton Join Newark in Keeping Schools Schools Closed Through Spring

The 30,000 students in Jersey City’s public schools have not seen the inside of their schools since last March when schools first closed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Superintendent Franklin Walker just announced that the earliest schools will reopen for live instruction is April 21st. This is the third time since the start of the school year the district, one of NJ’s low-income “Abbott” districts, has pushed back plans to reopen to any sort of live instruction.

Walker said,

If there is any time between now and June that we can get students back in school, whatever time we can get them in to come back accustomed to the process of being in person for instruction …if it’s one month…two months, we are going to take advantage of that.

And today Trenton City Public Schools, another Abbott district that primarily serves low-income children of color, announced “there’s a chance that all-remote learning will remain in place through June,” although Interim Superintendent Alfonso Q. Llano is hoping for May 3d.

Also, as reported last week, Newark, New Jersey’s largest school district, will not open any earlier than April 12th.

It is unclear how the Jersey City Education Association is influencing the extension of school closures even as smaller districts implement hybrid schedules (although the local union controls school board elections). But union pressure is clear elsewhere. In Newark, teacher union president John Abeigon first said every student must have to get a COVID test before entering the building but then changed his mind and said schools should just stay closed.

Here, courtesy of the Star-Ledger, are Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora’s thoughts on the hurdles to reopening schools as student learning tanks:

“The stumbling block seems to be teachers who don’t want to go back to classrooms unless they believe their safety will be optimized,” Gusciora said. Gusciora said he empathizes with their concerns, but that it “would be tragic” if students go the whole school year without returning to classrooms. “We have a high truancy rare on Zoom learning,” Gusciora said, adding that students also are missing out on extra curricular activities.

What do you think?