Earlier this week NJ Education Report reported that, in contrast to Camden City Public Schools that just reopened for kindergarten-second graders, Jersey City Superintendent Franklin Walker announced that schools would remain closed for its 30,000 students until September.
Here's the robocall from Jersey City Superintendent of Schools Franklin Walker where he tells parents that schools will not resume in-person learning this year.
"The staff we need for adequate supervision and instruction is not available." pic.twitter.com/4gVkCHm1K2
— John Heinis (@HeinisHardNews) April 19, 2021
However, yesterday Walker announced that on April 29th Pre-K-third graders will return for a half-day of in-person instruction while 4th-12th graders will return on May 12th.
Perhaps he didn’t count on the pushback.
- Gov. Phil Murphy said yesterday at his press briefing, “I was disappointed in the Jersey City development.”
- Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop called Franklin’s original decision “a failure in leadership,” adding, “I struggle with the fact that our Jersey City public schools couldn’t figure out some version of in-person learning when Newark, NYC, Hoboken, and virtually every surrounding district has been able to reinstitute some form of in-person learning.”
- The Jersey Journal Editorial Board called the decision to stay closed “unacceptable,” adding,
Millions of dollars have been spent to upgrade facilities in the face of the pandemic. Teachers – whether they live in or outside of Hudson County – have been prioritized for vaccines in Jersey City. Many, many parents have told the district their children are not getting the education they deserve and need. And at least two studies have shown that ‘learning loss’ in New Jersey schools since the pandemic began has been very real and has especially affected students of color.
And sometimes timing is everything: Jersey City parents had planned a portest this morning at 9 am, timing that would overlap with a Board of Education meeting. The protest was organized by Jenn Sforza, a mom of three Jersey City students, and is backed by a Facebook group called ” “Open Jersey City Schools Now.” Sforza explained that, while she has “great respect” for district teachers, she felt “betrayed” by the news, announced on Walker’s robocall, that 500 teachers were refusing to come to school to set up their classrooms for reopening. “It felt like a betrayal between the parent and teacher confidence and relationship,” she said.
There has been some chatter that Mayor Fulop was actually rooting for Walker’s original plan to stay closed until September because he and City Council want to revert to a system where the mayor appoints school board members instead of having a public election and public disdain for the board would work in his favor. (Note to Fulop: that’s not working out so well in Montclair.)
Yet, in the end, allowing the public to choose its own representatives seems to be working for Jersey City. Board of Education President Mussab Ali tweeted last night,
Jersey City Public Schools will be reopening for Pre-K to 3rd grade on April 29th. 4-12 grades will be able to go back on May 10th. This is a vital step for the mental health of our students. Thank you to the superintendent and union leaders for coming together on this decision.
— Mussab Ali (@MussabAliJC) April 21, 2021