NJEA president: Schools in COVID-19 hotspots should have virtual learning for periods of time
State officials say that there are 51 COVID-19 outbreaks in New Jersey’s school system with 193 cases linked to these outbreaks.
The president of the New Jersey Education Association speaking out about those numbers. Marie Blistan is calling for updated guidance to keep students and school staff safe during the pandemic.
"The data we have so far - pretty impressive and again we're not making light of any of these cases,” Gov. Phil Murphy said. "But that 51 outbreaks is spread over 3,000 buildings."
But Blistan says that the numbers do not tell the whole story.
"That does not reflect the reality of the outbreaks that we're hearing and seeing about in these communities,” she says. "We are heading towards a catastrophe if we are not proactive and looking at more than just the in-school transmission rate."
With cases rising, the weather cooling and the holidays around the corner, Blistan says that it is time to recognize that the reopening guidance schools received over the summer is no longer relevant.
“The contact tracing can’t keep up inside of these schools,” she says. “We’ve got to get in front of this and relook at the guidelines.”
While Blistan says that she does not believe that there is a one-size-fits-all approach, she suggests that schools in areas where hotspots are occurring should transition to all-virtual learning for short periods of time as the situation is continuously monitored.
“There has to be clarity from the state regarding that definition for school closures in the midst of this rising pandemic has to be reviewed and we have to look at the broader picture inside of the community,” Blistan says.
And Blistan says that she is not worried about catching students up academically.
“What we can’t catch up – what we can’t close a gap is any health situations that occur because we did not err on the side of safety and health,” she says.
Murphy’s office says that there are no plans to change the state’s guidelines related to schools post-Thanksgiving. But the governor says that all options remain on the table.