Like many of you, I have experienced fear and uncertainty during the past few weeks. But I have also felt immense pride.
In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, our teachers and students are carrying on with remote instruction and other home distance learning practices.
The other day I stopped by to visit my granddaughters, one an eighth-grade student and the other in her freshman year of high school. They had started working online that morning at 8 a.m. It was about 12:30 p.m. when I stopped in for lunch, and they were going virtually through each academic period of the day. They were in the sixth period of the day, and they were completing their classwork on a daily basis.
I have heard similar stories from other board members in the state. While no one thinks the remote learning is preferable to the classroom, our students and teachers are accomplishing amazing things. I have received about 30 calls from community members since our schools closed — and every call has been someone thanking our schools, teachers and administrators for helping their children and grandchildren.
It isn’t by chance that New Jersey schools were as ready as any could be for this type of a public health emergency. Over the past several years, the majority of school districts have put technology plans in place, acquired hardware and software, built bandwidth, and supported the professional development that all makes remote, online learning possible.
This preparation, and the online learning enabled by it, is testimony to the planning, decisions and support of the boards of education in districts. My thanks, and my compliments, to board members across the state for helping schools be ready for this moment.
In my district, as in all districts, children who qualify for free and reduced-price meals are still receiving them. Meals are prepared at our school. Some families pick them up; the district delivers meals in our school buses to families that are unable to get to the school. Each day we are providing about 380 children with much-needed nutritional support. We will continue to do that throughout the school closure.
Our district is unusual in that it can take advantage of a school closing. Last year, we passed a construction referendum, and we were scheduled to begin construction projects later this spring. However, since there are now no students in our schools, we have moved up the construction to take advantage of the empty buildings. We now will be ahead of schedule on our completion time, and it looks as if we will not have to start school a little later in September than we usually do. I appreciate the flexibility of all parties concerned in getting this going.
Your Association is taking precautions to keep members and staff safe. In-person meetings have been cancelled, we are about to hold a virtual board of directors meeting, and nearly all employees are working from home. Behind the scenes, NJSBA is working hard to provide members with the same services and resources it always has. I’m proud of this organization’s leadership and safe, and confident that NJSBA will come out of this crisis stronger than ever.