Anamika Roy-Choudhury lives in Bridgewater and has two children in public district schools. She is a member of a large group of New Jersey parents who are pleading with Gov. Phil Murphy to permit students to continue to learn virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Parents and kids in New Jersey have been struggling since the time schools have opened. While cases started going down earlier in the year, today the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classifies our state as entirely “red,” putting us all at high risk for COVID-19 infection.
Parents are struggling with mental agony from this forced mandate from the school districts and Governor Murphy for in–person school. Never in the past have parents felt this helpless for their kids. We need to have the freedom to make choices for our kids’ education–and their health— and now that choice is being taken away from us. Our vulnerable kids are forced to go to school, which currently is a lion’s den! Parents are losing sleep and calm daily over this panic.
Gov. Murphy keeps saying he’s making up for the learning loss of the past one and a half years. That’s not his job–it’s the parents’ job to worry about what’s best for their kids. Many students have thrived in virtual settings. They were emotionally happy and healthy all that time. Parents managed to keep a close guard on kids all that time and we have no reason to think things would be different now
Yet now our children are being exposed to unsafe environments. They have to stay masked the whole day. This continuous seven hours of masking is significantly impacting their cognitive well being.
Here are a two in-school hotspots for Covid we have observed –
- Playgrounds: We believe this area is a big hot spot for COVID spread. Few parents have been to school during recess hour but have visualized huge numbers of kids running around, sweating, maintaining no distance — all without a mask mandate as per new state guidelines of no mask needed in the playground. Especially in the warmer weather they are sweating profusely and breathing heavily. (Per CDC guidelines, sweating and running tend to increase the spread of Covid due to expelled droplets suspended in the air and hence the need for more 6 feet spacing.)
This could potentially be the main reason for the Covid spike as soon as school reopened, even though teachers are probably doing a good job inside the class.
- Hallways: Another common hotspot is overcrowded hallways. In between classes when the bell rings, the hallway is overcrowded and kids are brushing against each other many times a day. This observation is shared to us by our own kids. Though they are all masked, such close proximity will only harm them. Can the school introduce staggered classes so that hallways are less crowded ?
In addition, the guidance from the state Department of Health is far from ideal.
- Parents are not receiving any notification when a child in the class tests positive. Only the affected parents are receiving information.. Parents are getting extremely nervous with this whole situation. Schools used to send the whole class emails when one kid came down with head lice and nothing for Covid!! They just want to stay ignorant about the gravity of this situation. Why do districts think this will be acceptable to parents? We questioned my local school board: If you have kids in that classroom is it safe to send your little kid the very next day?
Please Gov. Murphy, voice your concerns for parents whom you are forcing to send kids into situations we regard as extremely unsafe. In spite of known safety concerns, schools are forcing kids to come to school without taking responsibility for each case detected, all while refusing to allow excused absences. Please don’t forget: Covid has long-term consequences so prevention is many times better than the cure!
- The quarantine guidelines from the Health department are flawed as well. “Contact of a close contact” is deemed “not risky”! We had a situation in my district where a child was at high risk of Covid because the kid next to him was positive. Both were together in classes and the playground/ The first child was quarantined for 10 days and after testing negative on the first day, the school called the parent of the child demanding the sibling be sent to school or else his absence won’t be excused. According to the data, Covid which can still surface after 3-4 days but based on health department guidelines, a sibling of a close contact is not a risk.
These careless guidelines need to be revised because Covid may be spreading at a much higher rate than necessary. Schools are forcing kids to go to school even if someone in their household is currently at high risk.This is outrageous! We even spoke to the school principal and Administration, but in vain! Everyone wants to hide behind the guidelines these days, no one wants to take responsibility for their decisions
More than 27,000 parents have signed a petition for virtual learning in NJ yet the Governor still won’t pay attention. There have been deaths related to school Covid spread as well. What is Gov. Murphy waiting for? He needs to change his decision. He needs to act before it’s too late!