MONTCLAIR, NJ – This Saturday, March 13th, families from Essex and surrounding counties will mark the anniversary of one year of remote learning with a protest against the continued, unnecessary full or partial closure of their local schools.
Nearly 80% of New Jersey’s schools have reopened for in-person learning, either hybrid or full-time, and more are opening or expanding in-person instruction every week.
However, a number of school districts including Montclair remain completely online since closing in March 2020 despite a year’s worth of data from around the world proving the safety of in-person instruction with basic COVID-19 precautions in place, and against recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics and other medical and public health experts.
The concerned parents protesting Saturday are trying to call attention to the devastating effects of forcing children into substandard remote education for an entire year, including the following:
• Children are failing to learn and/or sliding backwards in their academic progress.
• The inability to learn in person is widening the achievement gap, having the greatest impact on low-income and minority children.
• Those with IEPs and struggling with learning disabilities are not getting the support they need.
• Diagnoses and reports of childhood depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts and actions are rising sharply.
• Child abuse and neglect is going unreported without the safety net of adult supervision outside the home, and millions of children have disappeared from the education system altogether.
In Montclair, teachers have refused to return to their classrooms, and the Board of Education has filed a lawsuit against the Montclair Education Association (MEA), the local union, arguing that their action constitutes an illegal strike. Both parties are scheduled to give oral arguments March 9th in Essex County Supreme Court. Adding to parents’ concerns that even the next school year is in jeopardy, the MEA recently indicated that teacher vaccinations doesn’t guarantee their return to the school buildings.
While Montclair stays closed, many of its neighboring towns have reopened schools for their children. Glen Ridge, Livingston, Cedar Grove and Verona have been teaching in person since September. Districts like Livingston, Sparta and Holmdel recently announced robust in-person learning plans and now offer full-time, on-site options for at least elementary school students, and in other cases, the full K-12 student body. Large districts such as Middletown and Scotch Plains-Fanwood are in the process of offering similar models of 5-day a week in-person, on-site instruction.
To date, school administrators in closed districts as well as local and state politicians have ignored the myriad protests, petitions, email campaigns and public pleas for help made by parents at Board of Education meetings across New Jersey. Requests to work together, compromise, and find creative and safe ways to get kids and teachers back to school have been stonewalled. Too many districts and teachers’ unions have been unwilling to prioritize children’s right to access in-person education and work together to find solutions. Governor Murphy, DOE Acting Commissioner Dr. Allen-McMillan, and DOH Commissioner Persichilli need to work harder to ensure full-time, in-person education for every student in New Jersey.
Where: Rand Park in Montclair, NJ (Chestnut Street between Park Street and North Fullerton)
When: March 13, 2021, 1:30pm – 2:45pm
Why: To demand that school districts and politicians put children first, and get them back into the classroom five days a week