A Letter to the Governor of NJ; Keep Schools Closed, Let Us Remote Teach

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Governor Murphy,

First off, thank you for all you've done to keep New Jersey safe amid this pandemic. You didn't sign up for this when you ran for election, certainly didn't anticipate anything like this, and yet you've maintained a cool head and done everything you can to make the best decisions for the state.

For this reason, I have to ask why you think we will be able to open schools again in September and stay safe? I have been a middle school teacher for nearly two decades now. I've gone through rounds and rounds of testing, increased scrutiny on my practice, more paperwork than I ever dreamed imaginable, and attacks on curriculum all in the name of increasing rigor even though it's made the work I do less personal and, frankly, less effective. I have never, in my eighteen years of teaching, been afraid of going to work and facing the challenges that I've been presented with. In fact, i've relished the opportunity to reach my students and give them the best education I've been able to accomplish.

For the first time, I am terrified of going to work in September. My wife is in the high risk category, and the idea of going into school and facing hundreds of children with the very real possibility of me bringing this virus back to her is not something I am looking forward to doing. Schools are not capable of opening in a way that will keep children and staff safe. Social distancing in a school is IMPOSSIBLE. It's not a challenge, it's not a difficulty we must overcome, it is, plain and simple, an impossible task. If indoor dining, which is far easier to control from a social distancing point of view, cannot reopen, why in the world are you telling schools to reopen? The staff of schools are citizens of this state as well as all those others who want to get back to their office jobs, but your mandate that schools reopen in September (even partially) is treating us like guinea pigs in a very dangerous game.

I know there's still time before we reopen, but the fact is, we teachers need time to plan for remote learning. We need to use this summer to get the best education to the state's kids as we are able. You know that we are capable of this - we went from regular teaching to remote learning in a couple of days in March. Imagine if we, teachers and administration, had a summer to prepare for the reality of remote learning. Rather than stressing about the impossibilities of masks and social distancing, we could focus our energies on preparing remote classrooms until it is TRULY safe to teach in person again. If you were to abruptly change the mandate and say schools will remain closed in August due to a spike in Coronavirus, and let's face it, it's going to happen again sooner or later, you would have wasted all this precious time that we could be preparing for better teaching remotely.

Governor, I ask you, please reconsider your orders about school's reopening. It's simply not safe for students or staff. NJ has recently been rated as the number one state in the country for education. That's something to be extremely proud of, and if we are to maintain that, we need time to prepare for the fall. I want to be with my students as much as anyone, but I am genuinely afraid of the disaster that is looming if we open again in September. Keep the schools closed until it is truly safe for us to return.

Thank you.