Coronavirus NJ: Superintendent Wants Staff In Schools, Some Unions are Hesitant

Source: North Jersey.com

Paterson’s city school district plans to require some educators to report for work in-person while students get remote learning, raising safety concerns among the unions representing teachers and principals.

Superintendent Eileen Shafer last week sent a letter telling all employees they would have to show up in person at their schools on Sept. 1 to prepare for the coming year. Afterwards, some people would be allowed to work remotely, while others would be required to “report to their assigned buildings…as per contractual hours to complete essential work that cannot be done remotely.”

Those required to report for work includes child-study team members, guidance counselors, nurses, principals, vice principals, supervisors, registrars, school secretaries. Then, starting on Sept. 21, the principals, vice principals, supervisors, registrars and secretaries would stop reporting to their home schools and instead be assigned to one of six buildings. Employees required to report for work in person will have to comply with safety measures, including health screenings for COVID-19 symptoms and possibly temperature checks as well as social distancing and mask wearing.

But according to the president of the Paterson Education Association, the district has failed to provide sufficient protections such as sanitizer and partitions, and that district plasn to provide employees with one cloth facemask every three months. John McEntee Jr. says:

“(The superintendent) talks of (us) being essential, but essential workers are supposed to get the PPE (personal protective equipment) they need.”

The Paterson Principals Association (PPA) also questions Shafer’s plan. The union’s lawyer, Robert Schwartz, sent the district a letter voicing safety concerns and asking 10 questions regarding safety measures. “I am requesting that you address these concerns before members of the PPA are required to report to any one of the six designated schools,” Schwartz wrote. “I am sure you can appreciate the need for transparency given the highly contagious nature of the virus and the outbreaks we are seeing in schools that have reopened in other states.”

Shafer asserted that employees would be provided enough protective equipment to meet state and federal guidelines. She said staff members who show up for work without masks will be given them. But she added that there’s a degree of “self-responsibility” in taking COVID-19 precautions, noting that everyone is required to wear a mask while running errands or shopping.

As for the students, they would get remote learning at least until Nov. 1. The district would decide on Oct. 15, whether to reopen schools at the start of November or to continue remote instruction.

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