The Executive Director of Newark Trust for Education is Hoping Lessons Learned during the Pandemic are part of the New School Year
There’s a new COVID-19 vaccine mandate for teachers and staff in New Jersey. How is that going to impact the new school year? WBGO's Doug Doyle spoke with Ron Chaluisán, the Executive Director of the independent non-profit Newark Trust for Education, about the challenges ahead.
Chaluisán explained the current mission for the Trust.
"At the end of the day what we're trying to do is galvanize the educations system across the city including parents, community organizations and schools to ensure that there's coherence around the conditions that are expected for young people to be able to learn and then act together to make sure those conditions are being met."
During a zoom chat with Doyle this past week, Chaluisán emphasized the importance of incorporating lessons learned during the coronavirus pandemic.
"So the Trust in collaboration with Project Ready in Newark have been really looking at ways of not saying 'great', we're back in the school building now, we don't need to deal with remote learning. Rather thinking, what did we learn about how kids learn online, how did their digital literacy skills improve and how do we make sure that kids being back in the school building does not erase that work, rather it gets integrated so our kids actually get the advantage of the tools that are necessary to be competitive in 2045 when they are going to be entering or just at the height of money making and their saving ability."
What is schools have to go back to remote learning?
"Good planning is good planning. We have lived through 18 months of ambiguity and not at anybody's fault just because conditions consistently change. We were at a point sometime this summer where we felt like we were almost through this and then the Delta variant came and that changed the picture. So, the Trust is really advocating with parents as well as with the school systems to think strategically about the next six to 12 months. It feels at this moment in time that we will have some level of closure or interruption over that time period just based on what we've seen so far. Now that we are expecting it to happen the question becomes "What are plans A, B and C?"
The former school principal says conversations about those plans differ depending on a family's situation.
"If I were a parent at this point, one of the things I'd really want to know are what are the milestones, what are we looking for? How do we know whether we are approaching a moment in time where a class, a grade, a school building will need to close for one week, two weeks or three weeks? What's the communication that is going to be in place in order for us to be monitoring those milestones? How will the decision be made and how will I be informed about that decision? I don't think we can do more than that."
Chaluisán stresses both parents and teachers have been doing amazing things during the pandemic and wants to see that renewed communication process continue not that kids will be back in the school buildings.