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COVID Impact: Jersey City Schools In-Person Learning Back On, But Some Parents Have Concerns About Phased-In Approach

JERSEY CITY, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- After putting pressure on their school district, many Jersey City parents finally got the outcome they wanted. In-person learning will be back for some students starting next week.

But not without a lot of back and forth.

Parents held a small rally outside the district's offices on Claremont Avenue on Thursday morning after they were told over the weekend in-person learning wouldn't be going ahead. Then on Wednesday night the decision was reversed. They say enough with the flip-flopping. They just want clear communication and safe schools for their kids.

"We are still out here because it's a reversal of a reversal and it has been a very confusing week," parent Jackie Cox Battles said.


Holding a sign that said, "I can't learn from my screen," parent Naha Tuli said her 9-year-old son, Karsh, is relieved to finally be going back to school next week.

"I can't really understand what they're saying online, because sometimes their internet goes out," Karsh said.

But his mom said there's still a lot of uncertainty.

"I'm happy that they have reversed the decision, but, still, I feel there are a lot of questions," Tuli said. "What if a student gets COVID? Are they going to shut it all down? I Just don't trust the district anymore, because they keep changing decisions."

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Jersey City parents were prepared for their kids to go back this week, but on Sunday they received a robocall saying, in part, "Unfortunately, we cannot open." The message went on to say a teacher shortage was the reason.

But after pressure from parents, Mayor Steven Fulop and even Gov. Phil Murphy, Schools Superintendent Franklin Walker sent a notice to parents Wednesday night that school would be back on.

"From the text yesterday, it sounds like they will attempt to do pre-K through third grade starting next week," parent Anne Johnson said.


The latest plan says students will return in phases -- pre k through third grade will return next Thursday, but only half-days with a 12:45 p.m. dismissal.

"It's part-time. Part-time is not going to cut it. It's not enough time. How am I supposed to work from 8:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.?" parent Yanira Ventura wondered.

Fourth through 12th grades can tentatively return on May 10.

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Fulop, who does not control the schools because the Board of Education is independent, said that only 500 of the district's 3,300 teachers have asked for special accommodations, and all teachers have been prioritized for vaccinations.

"The schools should be ready. They've had tens of millions of dollars from the federal government and a lot of time to prepare," Fulop said.

Schools will be closed every Wednesday so that facilities can be cleaned. Parents who don't feel comfortable sending their kids back for in-person learning have the option to keep their kids remote through June.

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