Some say that change occurs slowly in education. Whether we agree or not, it is indisputable that, almost overnight, New Jersey’s school districts made the profound shift from educating students in person to doing so remotely.

School board members, superintendents, teachers, principals, and other education leaders spared no effort in helping their students make this transition. In one district, building principals and their staff members worked into the late evening hours, delivering Chromebooks to students at their homes so they could participate in virtual instruction. Teachers everywhere adapted lesson plans for online learning, and spent hours in videoconference with students. Boards of education carried on the work of governing schools through videoconferences, and socially distanced meetings.

The New Jersey School Boards Association commends and thanks education leaders for the truly remarkable job they have done. They have proven that education can change almost overnight, innovate, and solve problems when it is necessary to continue the education of 1.4 million children.

Now, as always, we must look to the future. The last few months have been difficult, but what lies ahead is at least as daunting, if not more.

That’s why NJSBA has issued a report on the challenges we all now face as we move toward reopening schools.  Our report, “Searching for a ‘New Normal’ in New Jersey’s Public Schools,” was released on May 20 and provides information on the safe reopening of schools, students’ mental health, academic and extracurricular programs, budgetary issues, and preparations for the future.

Over the course of several weeks, NJSBA researched articles, publications and studies, conducted interviews with school administrators, mental health experts and board of education members, and analyzed more than 1,000 responses to a survey issued to local school district leaders.

As the New Jersey Department of Education charts a course to reopen schools, NJSBA’s special report will provide the critical perspective of local boards of education and school district leaders.

This issue of School Leader includes an in-depth look at the report, its strategies for consideration by local school districts, and its recommendations for action by the state and federal governments. The full text of the special report can be accessed here.