Many NJ schools will remain virtual as CDC recommends schools reopen

It has been almost a year since many students in New Jersey have seen the inside of a classroom. But even as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging districts to reopen, many of the state’s biggest cities are still months away.
The CDC says that even areas with high virus numbers should be able to at least partially reopen. And while many parents in New Jersey say that they are sick of virtual learning, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are ready to send their children back to school.
“I may trust my daughter to be able to follow directions. But there are different personalities of children in the classroom, so no, I would not feel better if she went back in,” says mother Nadirah Brown.
Brown’s daughter Kareenah is a sixth grader at a Newark charter school. She has been learning at home since the start of the pandemic, and spends most of her day staring at a laptop computer.
Brown says that they can’t keep it up – a fear for many New Jersey students.
The state says that since Aug. 1 there have been almost 690 COVID-19 cases linked to outbreaks in schools. But overall, during that time New Jersey has had about 495,000 cases, which means that cases in schools make up less than 1%.
Newark, Jersey City and Elizabeth are all on virtual learning until at least mid-April. Paterson and Trenton will be going virtual even longer.
“Our young people just need to know they are not alone in this,” says Carlos Lejnieks, with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Essex, Hudson & Union counties.
Lejnieks says that the students need someone to talk to. Big Brothers Big Sisters is working with over 1,000 kids across Essex, Hudson and Union counties during the pandemic and is hoping to keep them looking ahead to the future.
“The old phrase is like meet the kids where they’re at. That’s fine, that’s today. But let’s meet the kids where they dream,” Lejnieks says.
Kareenah has the support of her parents. But her grades are still taking a hit. She was locked out of virtual learning for four days after missing a vaccine deadline, even though she never left home.
“There was never a plan of action. They wanted to take away art. I said that’s her only fun class, don't take away the one thing she enjoys,” says Brown.
Brown admits that it was her fault for missing the deadline. But she thinks that the governor’s office needs to more closely scrutinize schools with the hope of improving virtual learning.