The school board on Wednesday evening approved a measure to move to an all-remote learning model through October because of the coronavirus pandemic.
School officials made the decision after the teachers’ union, fearing students and teachers will risk infection by showing up in-person in September, aggressively lobbied against in-person schooling.
School board president Kenneth Simmons said the district will open all-remote in September. He said on October 15, the district will conduct an assessment to determine whether conditions are appropriate to open in-person on November 1. School officials will look at local conditions such as positive cases, transmission rates, and staff availability to determine whether to open in-person.
“At this point it’s just not safe. It’s going to cost the district a lot of money to try and make it safe,” said Simmons.
“You saved lives here tonight,” said John McEntee, Jr., president of the Paterson Education Association, the teachers union, after the board’s decision.
McEntee feared for his members after superintendent Eileen Shafer put together a plan that had students attending schools two days a week. Her plan contained controversial elements like mask breaks for students that were later subtracted from the plan.
It remains unclear whether the school district is prepared for all-remote learning. School officials had ordered nearly 14,000 Chromebooks to equip all students with devices, but that delivery is being delayed by months because of sanctions against an alleged human rights violating Chinese firm that was manufacturing the laptops for Lenovo.
Shafer said the distributor, CDW, will provide 900 devices. Her team is also working to refurbish thousands of devices to distribute to students ahead of the school year.
“We’re refurbishing every device we have in the district,” said Shafer on Wednesday night. She said the district will still be short 4,000 devices.
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