“We Should Not Be Forced To Choose Between Our Job and Our Life”: Teacher Resignations Rise in New Jersey (New: Update on Lakewood)

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Advance Media has an article today entitled “Surge in N.J. teacher leave requests is crushing school reopening plans.” The Asbury Park Press has an article today entitled “Ocean Twp. schools will start remotely after 37 staff members take leave of absence,” busting up the plan for a hybrid of remote and in-school instruction. At Governor Livingston High School in Berkeley Heights, 17 out of 90 teachers won’t show up so the school will go all-remote instead of hybrid after failing to find enough substitutes. In Mount Olive, which NJ Spotlight describes as “once Gov. Phil Murphy’s Exhibit A for how schools could reopen with a mix of in-class and virtual instruction,” 25% of teachers have requested leaves and the district may have to go all-remote because getting substitutes would cost $20,000 a week. In Wayne, reports North Jersey, at least 30 teachers are refusing to come in for the planned hybrid program; Phread Ayres, a middle school science teacher, said he felt that school board members and the superintendent were “playing Russian roulette” with his life.

And then there’s Lakewood, which appears fully committed to opening its doors to students five days a week for full school days, citing parent demand and extraordinary preparation.

Some parents beg to differ and say they’re being “used as props”: see here. Some teachers feel the same way. District rhetoric to the contrary, the Lakewood Education Association members have been protesting Lakewood’s reopening plans for quite a while. Back in May lawyers representing NJEA, LEA’s mothership, sent a “cease and desist” letter to the district for requiring staff to do in-person evaluations of students and clean classrooms and forcing them to violate social-distancing protocol.

By July the LEA was having members sign petitions and take other actions to express their concerns about full-time in-school instruction and what they alleged was the district’s failure to keep classrooms clean during summer programming, also full-time and on premises. (Superintendent Laura Winters also said that the district couldn’t go remote because it couldn’t get enough laptops for students: “Even if we ordered it,” said Winters, “I’m not to sure we would get in time.”)

And now Lakewood teachers are starting to resign. Here is a Facebook post on the LEA page:

We will miss these LEA members who have had to make a hard decision in order to stay safe! ?

Resignation #1

Date: August 12, 2020

I regret to inform you that I am giving my 60 days’ notice to the Lakewood School District. Unfortunately, this is a decision that comes with great turmoil. During my last four years, I have truly enjoyed my time. I connected with students, learned from my colleagues, and had many sincere conversations with administration. We were a family at LMS. I was planning on staying there until the end. I was going to be a lifer. This changed when I saw the living covid document. It was apparent that the decisions made did not have everyone’s best interest at heart. The schools are crowded. The rooms are small. There are very little precautions in place. It is inevitable that not only teachers but also students’ family members will get sick. This is a plan that I cannot get behind. I learned a long time ago that if you do not stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. This is my stand. I want to thank all of the LMS family for their profound impact in my life and career. Lastly, I wish all the amazing students, educators, and administrators the best of luck.

Resignation #2

Date: August 17, 2020

To whom it may concern, It is with sincere sadness that I write this letter. My time at Lakewood Middle School has been wonderful. The staff feels like family and the school home. Unfortunately due to the current COVID-19 epidemic I am unable to continue my employment here. I do not feel safe exposing my 4 month old daughter to the possibility of contracting this virus. I feel that the safest place for her is at home with me rather than a daycare center. I also feel that the safest place for myself is home, to reduce her exposure odds. If there were a remote option, I would be overjoyed to remain a part of the staff. I understand that this is not a likely option. I hope to work with you all again sometime soon.

The comments are worth reading, many with the hashtags #OnlyWhenItsSafe. Here are a few:

It’s only the beginning……it’s an outline not a reopening plan. They need to answer our safety questions!!

So sad! NO one should have to retire early or take a leave do to the lack of poor decision making on the board! Such a shame!

This is horrible! We should not be forced to choose between our job and our life!

This just in:

Media Advisory
Lakewood Car CaravanWednesday, August 26, 2020 at 6 p.m.Pine Park, 500 Country Club Drive, Lakewood, NJTRENTON, NJ –For Immediate Release: August 26, 2020 Contact: Dawn Hiltner, NJEA Communications, 267-918-0481                                  Media AdvisoryLakewood Car CaravanWednesday, August 26, 2020 at 6 p.m.Pine Park, 500 Country Club Drive, Lakewood, NJ The Lakewood Education Association (LEA) invites members of the community and the media to a car caravan to protest the district’s plan to fully open schools for in-person instruction during a pandemic.  LEA is imploring the school district to reexamine its plans and make a commitment to keep students, staff, and the community safe. The school district’s current plan to start school fully in-person with large class sizes, no social distancing, and inadequate plexiglass barriers puts too many lives at risk. Attendees are asked to remain in their vehicles and decorate them with red using the hashtag #OnlyWhenItsSafe
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