Petition for In-School Option 2020-2021

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Dear Rumson/Fair Haven District Administrators:

We have come together as Rumson/Fair Haven parents to express our extreme concern for the 2020/2021 school year.  Our two towns have always prided ourselves on amazing public school systems and have chosen to live here because of what you have always offered our children.  We have chosen the public school system because it has always been just as good, if not better than, the local private schools.  Unfortunately, this year is looking to be a dramatic departure from what our children expect and deserve.  We are extremely concerned for our children on the academic, emotional, and social levels.

All Rumson Fair Haven schools did an amazing job of helping our children navigate the new and uncertain waters that the spring brought. Now, however, we are entering a new school year knowing much more about what we are up against as COVID is much less of a mystery than it once was.  Our towns have done a phenomenal job making sure we keep ourselves and our children healthy and safe.  We did so under the impression that this would grant our children the right of going back to in-school learning this fall.

This letter is coming from a place of genuine fear and concern about our children’s wellbeing.  Our children absolutely love going to school – and that is because the administration, faculty, and staff has made it a place they want to be.  Unfortunately, it has proven depressing for most of our children to be at home with only their families and not being able to interact with their peers and teachers.  Each of us can attest to seeing some of our children’s spark, drive, confidence and love of learning diminished. Many are already suffering from mental health issues.  What will the outcome of virtual learning bring to these, already struggling, children?  This is a very real issue that even the most involved at-home parents cannot prevent.  Kids NEED to be with more than just family members.  This isn’t about “babysitting” or politics, it is about our children’s academic and emotional lives. These kids come from supportive homes, but we cannot give them what the school setting can and should.  They need each other and they need their teachers.

The Center for Disease Control, American Academy of Pediatrics and Dr. Fauci have all issued statements and released evidence that as long as a community is deemed safe, in-person instruction is recommended as the best choice for children. Dr. Fauci recommends the hybrid model only for areas of “smoldering infections;” states such as NJ which are rated green “can get back to school with the kinds of precautions that you do in general society.”  As of August 3, our local hospitals had only two total COVID cases—both at Monmouth Medical Center while Riverview had zero. In the entire state there are only 295 new cases out of 9,000,000 New Jersey residents. Why aren’t we following the recommendations of the doctor who has led our country since the beginning of this? If those numbers are not good enough to get our children back to school, then what is? 

We are well aware of the hurdles that Governor Murphy’s myriad guidelines have placed in front of you.  Unfortunately, however, we feel that the hybrid schedule you have proposed is treating Murphy’s hurdles like brick wall barriers.  Other local public districts similar to ours (Hazlet, Long Branch, Monmouth Beach) are making plans for far more in-person instruction, as are various other districts across the state (Lakewood, Hoboken, Califon, Summit, Millburn, Cranford, and Newark). With the resources and talent available in our community, certainly we can also devise a plan for significantly increased in-person learning while still adhering to Governor Murphy’s rigorous guidelines for keeping our children and staff safe.

There are many creative options that we believe should be considered for addressing constraints around hurdles such as social distancing requirements. For example, we could employ physical barriers between desks, find space in town to rent, utilize tents for outdoor instruction, convert the cafeteria, gym and other common spaces into classrooms, etc.  We can also have the children bring a bagged lunch to eat in the classroom.  For those that choose an all virtual option, we can use technology so that teachers can live-stream their lessons to students at home.

Let’s get these kids back to school!  They are suffering in these difficult times.  They are our future and we MUST do right by them.  Everyone has a choice to opt for virtual learning if they feel unsafe sending their children to school.  But those who advocate in-person learning as recommended by the top US health officials (CDC, AAP, Dr. Fauci) should also have their choice respected.