First and foremost, I hope this finds you well and continuing to stay safe and healthy. There is no doubt this has been a difficult year, and we know the Paterson community has seen more than its share of loved ones affected by the pandemic.
It is for precisely this reason the Paterson Education Association (P.E.A.) is taking a stand against reopening our community’s school buildings until we are certain it is safe to do so. For years, our schools have needed serious upgrades and basic repairs: HVAC systems are inadequate, classrooms and other common areas do not have functional windows or access to fresh air, and class sizes have forced too many people into spaces that simply are not conducive to optimal learning — not to mention the ongoing leaky roofs that contribute to an ongoing issue with exposure to mold.
These issues were not good for Paterson’s students previously, but now that we are considering returning to school buildings while still fighting the COVID virus, it is unconscionable to leave anything to chance. When it comes to the health and safety of our Paterson community, we must get it right.
Unfortunately, despite the P.E.A.’s attempt to work cooperatively with Ms. Eileen Shafer, she has chosen to block the P.E.A. from conducting joint safety walkthroughs with the administration to understand the extent of the repairs. Before we were denied, however, in early March we spot-checked JFK HS and were horrified at what we saw, but, do not just take our word for it. If you would like to see pictures of what we uncovered, please visit our website at https://www.patersonea.org/jfk-high-school-conditions/.
The bottom line is that Paterson’s students and staff deserve nothing less than a safe environment when they return; fast-tracking a reopening decision in the wake of political pressure instead of the science and data we have followed thus far is both unwise and unfair. Additionally, if — in the last 13 months — the district hasn’t taken any measures to correct the ongoing and outstanding issues, what anyone believes it can be done before May 1?
For these reasons, the P.E.A. is urging Superintendent Shafer and the Paterson Board of Education to table the reopening date until thorough building walkthroughs have been conducted, and all issues have been thoroughly addressed. Paterson’s children are counting on us all.
John McEntee, Jr.
President of the Paterson Education Association, the teachers’ union