Five Full Days for 2021-2022 School Year

Five Full Days for 2021-2022 School Year

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Jennifer Kenny started this petition to Mayor Michael Putrino

Mayor Putrino, for the better part of this year, New Milford public schools have remained closed. Parents, teachers, administrators, Superintendent Polizzi, and Board of Education members have faced daunting challenges.  Perhaps no group has truly experienced the most difficult of challenges more so than our children.  From our youngest learners to our High Schoolers, and especially those who face learning and emotional obstacles, the academic and mental effects of this year’s school closure will have long lasting repercussions.  Yes, children are resilient, but it will undoubtedly take years for some to make up for and overcome what has been lost.

It is fair to say that no one had any idea what we were dealing with at the onset of the pandemic.  The immediate shutdown last March that took us through to the end of the 2020 school year was justifiable.   However, as far back as last July, various accredited organizations, such as the WHO and the AAP, released data to support that in person schooling was not only safe, but the instance of in class transmission of the virus was almost non-existent.  Furthermore, the science was clear that schools would not contribute to community spread.  Since September, public and private schools of all grade levels, around the country, our State and even some in Bergen County have thrived in safely and successfully providing full time or consistent hybrid in person learning.  Conversely, hundreds of districts in NJ, including ours, failed to open their doors.  Understandably, parts of the country responded to the pandemic differently when it came to opening their public schools, but how is it possible that neighboring communities within the same county in NJ operated inversely to one another?  The answer lies in the unclear and misinterpreted safety guidelines, poor planning, lack of strong and willing leadership, and the last-minute decision by our Governor which allowed schools the option to go all remote. 

It is time to reign in our education administrators.  Since the beginning of this school year, Superintendent Polizzi exhibited no urgency in returning our children to their classrooms.  It was abundantly clear that he would not take a “roll up your sleeves and get as many kids back in school” approach.  As a matter of fact, his attitude was the complete opposite as evidenced during a BOE meeting several months ago when he said, “Kids are safest at home.”  This could not be further from the truth.  Our children have not only been deprived of the quality public education that they deserve, and that we as taxpayers fund, they have been deprived of months of social and emotional wellbeing that is directly linked to and a significant part of attending school each and every day.  

While it serves no one to dwell on the past, the future is now.  To this end, it is time to hold accountable our local health administrators as well.  Relying on the science to make decisions based on the best interests of our children is clearly no longer a priority.  On the contrary, the science is being manipulated to fit agendas and flip flops almost daily.  It is impossible to ignore the fact that every level of living around us such as malls, restaurants, and supermarkets – some in our own town – have been open without restrictions, and some continue to increase in person capacity.  How is it possible that our County and local Board of Health will allow these facilities to operate and yet our schools and Public Library remain limited in so many ways?  If patrons can enjoy entertainment, food, and drinks served by masked waitresses at our Town’s local eateries, surely our children can go to school five full days and drop their masks for 30 minutes to enjoy their lunch without threatening the safety of vaccinated teachers and aides.  If customers can crowd a Shop Rite any day of the week, certainly our town Library can reopen to the public.  With the approaching summer and schools closing, it is more important than ever for kids, especially our youngest learners who may have fallen behind, to have access to this vital resource once again.  Let us not forget recreational soccer, Little League and High School sports including those with close contact such as wrestling.  While many families have wholeheartedly embraced a return to Williams and Berkley for soccer and Kennedy for baseball, we cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that the same children who can only attend school a half day are spending evenings and weekends not only practicing and participating on team sports, but playing, eating, and socializing on and off the fields.  Our High Schoolers are traveling the State participating in wrestling tournaments.  One would be hard pressed to believe that, post matches and tournaments, these teens are isolating themselves or that their families and siblings are likewise in isolation.

These blatant hypocrisies can no longer be overlooked.  We have undeniably traded common sense for hygiene theatre.  In a charade masked as safety, and in an effort to thwart any potential for liability, we have sacrificed our children’s educational experience plain and simple.  For example, current safety guidelines prohibit a masked teacher from approaching a masked student whose desk is shielded with plexiglass.  Teachers must be able to engage their students in an active and effective manner to make sure that lessons are properly conveyed and to ensure assignments are completed.  On a human level, teachers must be able to connect with their students as well, especially our youngest and most vulnerable.   Moreover, with the warmer weather upon us and the potential for heat exhaustion looming, children must be permitted to remove their masks during outdoor recreation.  Our children’s physical wellbeing is the school’s responsibility while in its care, so it is paramount that they be able to run and play and take in fresh air during recess and breaks.

We have been inundated with months of inconsistencies and misinformation, as well as the lack in our State’s leadership to enforce a return to in person schooling.  Recent changes in the CDC’s and State’s social distancing guidelines as well as the steps our District has taken to get children back in their classrooms five half days a week are steps in the right direction, albeit small.  However, it cannot go without mention that Districts around Bergen County took a trailblazing approach and have been doing this (and more) for months.  Districts including Becton Regional High School, Englewood Cliffs, Hillsdale, Lyndhurst, Moonachie, Rutherford, and Tenafly are currently operating five full days with lunch.  Franklin Lakes, Hasbrouck Heights, Montvale, Oakland, Old Tappan, Paramus, Wallington, and Wyckoff will be moving on to the next phase of reopening schools five full days with lunch in May.  Although these Districts may not be offering full days for all grade levels, they have taken a crucial step forward to test the waters prior to September and, more importantly, to offer hope to the families in their community.  Meanwhile, our District has yet to even provide concrete assurances and currently remains “cautiously optimistic” that our schools will open five full days a week for the upcoming school year.  If debunked safety measures are not eliminated entirely, and if contact tracing and quarantine guidelines are not completely revised, our District will find itself in the same place we are now come September.  Likewise, if the State, its representatives, and local leaders do not take a firm stand and order schools to reopen, our District will continue to follow the State’s lead which is sorely lacking in a true push for schools to fully reopen. 

Enough is enough.

Mayor Putrino, as our Town’s leader, with children of your own in our public schools, you can no longer stand idly by as our District leaves families in limbo.  The time for you to act is now.  Recently, Mayors in Bergen County have stood up in support of parents who have been fighting for a return to traditional in person public education.  In light of the countless number of families and children whose lives have been upended because, for all intents and purposes, students were locked out of classrooms for more than a year, we implore you to stand up and support New Milford parents who demand that our District guarantee five full days a week in person including a lunch period for the upcoming 2021-2022 school year.  Keeping in mind the District’s conservative approach and last-minute deviations throughout the current school year, we respectfully request these plans be shared with parents no later than June 1st so that they will be afforded the time to make any necessary arrangements for their families in the event the District is unable to fulfill this demand.

0 have signed. Let’s get to 200!
At 200 signatures, this petition is more likely to be featured in recommendations!