Newark Teachers and Students Confront ‘Low Morale’ and ‘Extreme Frustration’ With Return to Remote Instruction

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From Newark Teachers Union President John Abeigon:

I hear your calls for clarity, and I am giving it to you now. All staff will remain home until the 18th UNLESS they themselves feel working from school is a better option. Any administrator that needs further clarification should seek it with their boss, Superintendent Leon.

Abeigon has enjoyed undue influence over Newark Superintendent Roger Leon but it seems his time in the power-seat has passed. Currently New Jersey’s largest district has resorted again to remote instruction due to spiking cornoavirus infection levels, with the percentage of positive COVID tests above 44%. While school administrators have told teachers they have to do their remote instruction from inside their classroom–Chalkbeat reports that they were warned they’d lose personal time “if they don’t show up in person”– many are listening to Abeigon and staying home anyway, despite unavoidable distractions.

This in a district where, according to recent assessments, only 9% of students in grades 2-8 meet state expectations in math and only 11% meet expectations in reading.

While some teachers think this closure, currently set to end on January 18th, is going better than previous ones because they had three days before winter break to prepare, others are less sanguine, wondering why they have to enter poorly-maintained buildings amid the omicron variant.

“Pretty much every teacher in my building has expressed extreme frustration with the situation,” one teacher said, asking to remain anonymous to avoid retaliation. “I thought morale couldn’t be lower heading into our winter break, but I can now say that it is indeed lower.”

Newark students, most of whom are low-income and of color, aren’t happy either. This student at Science Park, one of Newark’s magnet schools, said “some classmates weren’t able to enter their virtual classes for 10 to 20 minutes. She added that students have also been having issues with their Chromebooks.”

Also from Chalkbeat:

“The attendance wasn’t great,” said a Newark high school teacher who asked to remain anonymous to avoid retaliation. “I was missing a few students because a lot of them either still don’t have a Chromebook or they have one but there was something wrong with it, or the internet was lagging.”

Newark Public Schools District maintains a COVID-19 Dashboard with counts of cases per building. In the week before Christmas there were 203 student cases and 233 staff cases. The most infectious school was Central High, with 25 student cases and 7 staff cases, even though school was only in session three days that week–remote instruction began Thursday, December 30th.

North Star Academy resumed in-school instruction yesterday, only taking off Monday. KIPP, Newark’s other large public charter network, will resume in-person classes on Monday, January 10th.

 

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