The Senate Education Recovery Task Force, led by Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz, chair of the Senate Education Committee, along with co-chair Sen. Sam Thompson, held its first meeting on May 1 to begin addressing the challenges facing students, teachers, parents and administrators in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The task force was created under the direction of Senate President Steve Sweeney.

NJSBA Executive Director Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod appointed Christopher Jones, legislative advocate, to serve on the task force. Other members include representatives of New Jersey’s education and stakeholder advocacy organizations.

“I thank Senate President Sweeney and Senator Ruiz for creating this critical task force,” said Feinsod. “It will assist school boards, administrators and members of local education communities in meeting the enormous challenges that will come when schools reopen after this academic year.”

The panel of educators and public officials will help provide guidance to address a variety of topics, including overcoming the digital divide, mitigating learning loss, offering resources to improve at-home special education and providing assistance for students who have Individual Education Plans or are English Language Learners. They also plan to discuss providing support for social emotional learning and mental health care, maintaining health and safety now and once students and teachers return to the classroom, ensuring students have access to healthy meals, and determining tools to help teachers, parents, and students measure academic progress and determine areas in need of attention.

On April 27, Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz sent a letter to the governor and N.J. Commissioner of Education Lamont Repollet urging the N.J. Department of Education to develop a plan for distributing federal CARES Act funding in a way that effectively prioritizes the needs and available resources. The letter also requests information from the NJDOE on topics, including the digital divide in the state and how the department is coordinating with districts to  progress towards the goal of access to technology and broadband for all students.