| Keep New Jersey schools closed: safety in seclusion
Last month, Various districts in North Jersey approved the return for students and staff members in September.
Several school districts across northern New Jersey approved plans for an online option, half-day schedule, and hybrid models where students are divided into groups that rotate from online to in-person classes on set days.
While it is most effective for students to learn in a classroom environment, there are many holes in the various districts’ plans for reopening which suggests that it is not safe to open schools.
Teachers and administrators have noticed the faults in the current plans. North Jersey teachers held a rally over Route 4 protesting the reopening of schools in New Jersey, as first reported by NorthJersey.com. Protesters demanded that schools be closed until the coronavirus is “under control”.
Silvia Acosta, an educational specialist at Hawes Elementary School in Ridgewood, is among the school faculty members who have objected to the NJ schools reopening in September.
“ I am going to be scared if I have to go back to work and things are not safe,” said Acosta on the return of students back to schools. “There is so much we don’t know about this virus, we could be opening up a huge pandora’s box .”
While school districts across North Jersey have meticulously planned the re-opening of schools to be as safe as possible, there are still a few elements not accounted for.
Acosta said that while the staff will try to keep students from clustering together, school faculty will have trouble when it comes to interfering with groups of students while still trying to maintain the 6 feet apart mandate.
The state of Air filtration systems remains another concerning element of many school’s reopening plans. The HVAC-8 air filtration systems, which the majority of NJ schools have, filters fresh air coming in and out of the build using the Merv-13, which removes unwanted particles from the air. While this filtration system is helpful for filtering dust and other particles, it will not stem the movement of coronavirus particles according to Acosta.
The air filtrations system will not add to the safety of students. The limitations of how safe we can make schools are apparent and insufficient.
Even if everyone abides by school protocol to wear a mask, it only decreases the chances of getting COVID-19 by 65% according to figures published by UC Davis
“I don’t think that hundreds of people can safely learn in one building realistically especially since people could take off their masks at any point, not respecting social distance requirements,” said Olivia Jackson, a sophomore at Pascack Valley High School in Hillsdale.
These last few months of online learning has proven to be a difficult transition for many students. The distractions that home learning entails have made it hard to remain productive.
We, students, long for the day when we can return to school, reintegrate ourselves in the academic and social community that matters most to us.
However, we understand that sending students and teachers back to school, putting both parties in danger, would contribute to the newest coronavirus outbreaks in northern New Jersey. This is not speculation. School-related outbreaks have occurred in Georgia elementary schools after a failed re-opening.
We, the students, have sat at home for too long for this pandemic to relapse once again. If we start steering back to the path of a normal life too soon we could be contributing to the second wave of COVID-19.
Rushing back into school at an unstable time can only provide further damage to our community.