Our Students and Families are not OKAY! It is time for LEH Schools to Re-Open!

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As parents of the Little Egg Harbor School District, it is time to be the voice for our children.  Our children are struggling immensely with the current schedule, falling behind in their academics, and suffering mentally which is leading to a negative digression that may be irreversible. Two days a week of in-person instruction is not enough and we need a revised plan from the administration. The Superintendent has stated that they are beginning to work on the next steps. 

Below is part of the statement that will be read at the Board Meeting:

"We would first like to thank the administration and the teachers for all the hard work, dedication and time that has been put into this hybrid and virtual learning schedule, during this unprecedented time.  These teachers have gone above and beyond for our children, as witnessed by many parents each week, and their efforts do not go unnoticed.  After discussions with several parents & teachers in the district, it is apparent however, that our students are suffering tremendously.  The COVID-19 pandemic is something that no one was prepared for, however, it is evident that a tremendous amount of time went into the planning for the start of the 20/21 school year.  Students have tried to adapt to the schedules and synchronous learning but have faced challenges getting into a good flow of the school year, as every day is different. Structure is something young children crave in an academic setting. These outstanding teachers have tried to manage in-person and virtual learning at the same time. For our younger children, this has been close to impossible. After 4 months in this posture, we strongly believe that it is time to re-evaluate the schedule options for our students and move forward. Our children are not okay and tonight we are here to make sure that the administration, the Board of Education and the taxpaying community hears that.

Unfortunately, despite the organized daily schedules and the improved technology, our students continue to struggle and fall farther and farther behind academically. This was extremely evident when the testing data was presented at the October 19th board meeting.  The remedy for the current situation, has turned out to be worse than the situation itself.  We want to highlight some data presented at previous Board Meetings to support that opinion ......for our Kindergarteners, 45% are at risk or below average in literacy, in first grade, 62% of the students are at risk or below average in literacy….62%!  For fourth, fifth and sixth grade, more than 50% of students are at risk or below average.  These numbers are beyond alarming and prove the setbacks and challenges that parents are witnessing at home. Dr. Snyder specifically pointed out at the October 19th meeting that (Quote) “maybe we need to look at the lower grade levels differently and re-evaluate our plan since our plan was created for K through 6. At what point are we going to be alarmed and start looking at K through 2 differently?” (End Quote.) Interventions that have been put in place for these students seem to revolve solely around our BSI population or students with 504s.  This is great news, however, what about the regular ed, mainstream students who are now in the “at risk/ below average” percentage.  62% of first grade students are certainly not all basic skills students.

Attending school 4 half days was suggested by a community member and a board member at the October 19th meeting. However, the response was, (Quote) “We cannot do that due to State Regulations. Also, the 4 half days would be more disruptive to parents.” (End Quote) This statement was ultimately an opinion, not a fact, as the parents were never surveyed about attending in-person school 4 half days. If children were in school 4 half days this would create more consistency for the students and offer parents more flexibility.  Something that should be considered for our younger age group moving forward. Additionally, the guidelines from the Governors office in New Jersey, can be interpreted in many ways.  This is why school districts such as Barnegat, Stafford, Jackson, Asbury Park, Eagleswood, etc., have provided more in-person instructional options for students, while safely social distancing and wearing masks.  In our district, the safety measures put in place are excellent, as masks are worn, distance is maintained, and plexiglass is available.

Elementary aged children have an exceedingly difficult time disassociating themselves from a particular environment.  Home is home where you play, relax and be with family. School is school where you learn and listen to your teacher who is typically not your parent.  Simply stated, most children pay attention, listen better and are more behaved in a structured environment with an adult who is not the parent. The distractions at home are endless and the lack of a daily schedule is detrimental to these kids and their mental wellbeing. Kindergarteners should not be learning to read and write on a computer when most are unable to even work a mouse.  5th Graders should not have to sit at a computer for over 6 hours a day while their teacher is pulled in a million directions trying to teach to students in person, manage technology, account for all the virtual students and make sure that the entire group, both in-person and virtually, is paying attention and engaged.  Here is a thought……. when should we start to be concerned with the amount of screen time?  Not only are these young kids learning on a computer at home all day but when they are in-person they are also starring at a screen, so the teacher is able to teach synchronously.  This expectation is unrealistic and good quality learning is unattainable in this posture.  As parents, we have witnessed many of these teachers in action, and we are amazed at their dedication and commitment.  These educators are unsung heroes, but unfortunately like our students, it is evident they are struggling.  It is important for decisions makers in Little Egg Harbor to understand what is happening on the front lines and be completely in touch with reality. We hope to close that gap this evening. The community, this Board of Education, and the administration need to hear from parents that things are not going well, and we need to do something different.  Our children and your staff are barely hanging on. Most of your teachers are up all hours of the night preparing for the next day. We as parents have firsthand knowledge of this because we receive emails and notifications from your dedicated professionals throughout the night.  When does their working day end?  When do they take care of their own families?  When do they de-stress after putting in a full day’s work? We see them working harder than ever, killing themselves to make sure our children do not fall even farther behind.

We appreciate the time to relay our concerns this evening.  Of course, we hope that we can get our children back to school as soon as possible, but if COVID-19 prevents that, at least we were able to stand here today to state that our kids are struggling, and everything is NOT OKAY.  We hope the committee put in place will re-evaluate our base plans too provide more in-person options for students and families. Thank you for putting our children first as they are the future of tomorrow."