By Todd DeFeo
(The Center Square) – Vaccinating teachers is seen by some as the key to reopening New Jersey’s schools, but the governor says any reopening cannot be tied exclusively to the vaccination rollout.
“Universal school reopening is, in my view, dependent upon the availability of vaccinations for teachers and demonstrated ventilation adequacy in interior spaces where windows cannot be opened as the weather improves,” Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, D-Essex/Morris, said in a statement.
“I understand the frustration and ire of parents who want to see their children back in school and believe that … most districts have worked tirelessly to provide as much in-person opportunity as they believe circumstances permit,” Jasey added. “Patience has been exhausted and COVID-fatigue is tangible. I have every confidence that conditions will continue to improve and schools will reopen as we find our way to at least a semblance of normalcy.”
Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, included teachers in the next vaccine-eligible group, Jasey said. This week, however, the governor indicated reopening schools cannot be tied directly to teacher vaccinations.
“I was asked on CNN the other day, can you commit if educators are vaccinated, that schools open? I said that’s a false connection,” Murphy said at a news briefing earlier this week, according to a transcript. “… It is not a magic wand or a binary you’re in or you’re not in. It is a very positive step, in fact, a data point to have at your disposal if you’re able to vaccinate, and I hope we can vaccinate educators sooner than later.”
State Sen. Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth, said government officials generally agree vaccines for teachers should be a priority as soon as feasible.
“It is imperative that we put politics aside and do all we can to eliminate any hurdles to getting our kids back in school,” O’Scanlon said in a news release. “Although science says vaccination isn’t essential for teachers to safely get back in classrooms with our students, getting teachers vaccinated will give them both a health, and comfort level boost and remove the issue from the debate surrounding reopening schools.”
Meanwhile, newly introduced legislation, S-3470, would allow some students to repeat their prior grade level during the 2021-22 school year upon parental request.
Separately, some Republicans are clapping back at the governor over education funding levels in his recently unveiled $44.8 billion state budget proposal.
“With the windfall of federal pandemic help and improving revenues contributing to a budget surplus, there is room in the budget plan to adequately fund our schools and help make up the millions of dollars of aid lost in recent years,” Assemblyman Hal Wirths, R-Sussex, said in a news release. “The reality is our schools are being punished by this Administration because they have the wrong zip codes in the wrong counties.”
Originally published by The Center Square. Republished with permission.