New Jersey parents frustrated that many schools have yet to reopen

The Biden administration just conducted a survey of schools that found about half of them are still doing some type of hybrid or remote learning. But whether or not your kids have returned to school probably has a lot to do with the type of school they are in (public vs. private) and also where you live.

Nearly half of U.S. elementary schools were open for full-time classroom learning as of last month, but the share of students with in-person instruction has varied greatly by region and by race, with most nonwhite students taught entirely online, according to a Biden administration survey

The survey casts new light on a period of particularly bitter debate in the school reopening process. In January, officials in California, Chicago and other places were in stalemates with teachers over reopening plans,. Vaccinations were often a sticking point…

There were stark differences based on where students live, reflecting the regional battles that have played out as cities debate how and when to reopen schools.

In the South and Midwest, where schools were the quickest to reopen, just under 40% of eighth grade students were enrolled full time in classroom instruction in January. In the West and Northeast, the figure was about 10%.

This seems to match up with what we’ve been hearing from individual cities around the country. Cities on the west coast from Los Angeles to Seattle have seen battles between powerful teachers unions and state and local officials. In some cases, even after teachers were moved to the front of the vaccine line they were still balking at returning to classrooms. Meanwhile, many schools in Texas have been open, including team sports.

Keeping that in mind, today the NY Times has a story about parents in New Jersey who are frustrated with the slow rate of school reopening.

Kate Walker, a New Jersey mother of three, says she feels like one of the lucky ones: She enrolled her children in a Catholic school for September before a wait-list started…

“I’ve lost a lot of faith in the district,” said Ms. Walker, who participated in a recent sit-in outside her 7-year-old son’s elementary school. “We’ve been stopped and started a dozen times.”

Most districts in New Jersey have partially reopened, but one in four children still live in a district where public schools are closed. No state in the Northeast had more districts relying on all-virtual teaching in early March than New Jersey, according to Return To Learn, a database created by a conservative think tank, American Enterprise Institute, and Davidson College.

Some parents who have the ability to do so are simply moving so their kids can get into an open school:

Meg Asaro, a mother of two, sold her house in Montclair in December and moved to Pennington, about 60 miles south, after watching her first-grader, Bryce, struggle with all-virtual classes. Some of Montclair’s public schools, which have been closed since last March, are making plans to reopen next month, but in Pennington, Bryce attends a public school five days a week…

Bryce now boards a school bus each morning at 7:07. “He is like a completely different child here,” Ms. Asaro, 53, said.

Of course not every family can pick up and move. Many people are stuck with whatever the teacher’s union will allow. In New Jersey that’s probably some reopening of classrooms next month.

This is one of those stories where the commenters in the Times are restoring my faith in the common sense of Americans. There are lots of people upvoting comments like this one from a guy in Boston:

We put our 6 year old child in private school. We are fortunate to have the means. 4 days in person and one day remote.

There have been zero cases of Covid in our school outside Boston. A few scares, a few quarantines. But nothing else

I’m usually pro union, except when I’m not. If Home Depot is open, then the schools should be too.

This one from someone in DC is a jab at public school unions:

Many readers might be concerned that all parents are becoming anti-teacher, but it’s not true! We love our private school teachers. They’ve shown up every day throughout the pandemic, even though they weren’t vaccinated. (No outbreaks.) It’s a great way to earn respect, rather than richly deserved contempt.

From Virginia:

What happened to “believing in science”? The article states the in-school transmission rate is 0.1%. How much safer could schools be? The rest of us have to work for our pay. If teachers were required to engage in in-person instruction to get paid does anyone doubt they would be in school?

A similar comment from NYC:

I have little sympathy for teachers unions unilaterally refusing to reopen schools. We have three kids here and their school year, let me report to you, has been largely lost. Their emotional and physical well-being has been compromised severely. The News Hour just reported the other week about two teen suicides based on lack of sports engagement at schools. Enough is enough. Science points to rates of transmission of less then 0.5% in schools. Please, open our schools to save our children!

And finally here’s one from Jersey:

I’m a Maplewood parent with two children and it’s been heartbreaking to see how no one has advocated for the kids. The teachers union, like any union, advocates for their members. Their job is not to advocate for the kids, and they haven’t.

All of the comments above have at least 170 and 300 upvotes from other readers. These are the top readers picks. Clearly a lot of people are tired of teacher’s unions looking out for themselves.