WATCHUNG, NJ - Holding signs and getting support from cars and trucks honking at them, the Watchung Hills Regional Education Association ( WHREA) held A Rally for a Responsible Reopening on Tuesday, Aug. 8 at the Watchung Circle from 11am to 1pm.
Teachers and staff lined the circle to raise awareness, many with accompanying family members.
Leading the charge was WHREA President Greg O’Reilly:
“We at the WHREA believe that developing a safe and responsible plan for reopening the school is one of the most important yet difficult tasks a community can be faced with,” said O’Reilly. We appreciate the efforts of the Watchung Hills Administration and Board of Education towards this end. We do not entirely oppose reopening the school in and of itself. However, the reopening plan presented on August 3rd does not address many concerns shared by the faculty and staff of our school. There is still more work to be done to improve the reopening plan that requires genuine collaboration with the faculty and staff of our school.
Our number one priority as an Association is the safety and well-being of our students and all of the families connected to our learning community balanced with the educational development of our students. We polled our membership and found that over 85% do not have confidence in the reopening plan presented by the Administration. Any reopening plan that is going to be successful is going to rest on the shoulders of the faculty and staff as they are the ones who will be implementing it on a daily basis. How can such a plan create a safe learning environment for our students if so many of the faculty and staff do not feel confident and safe in that plan themselves?
We proposed a set of actionable items to the Administration and Board of Education. These measures include items such as demonstrating that each room’s HVAC system and % of circulated fresh air is safely maintained; allowing faculty and staff to go home when the students go home at the end of the half-day and complete their job responsibilities remotely; allow faculty and staff to work remotely from home on a case-by-case basis based on their family’s health and childcare needs; social distancing standards based on maintaining six feet of distance; etc. Additionally, we asked for clarification and increased details on a range of issues such as how social distancing will be enforced; specific procedures for maintaining a snack-time for the students; guidance on how to assist students in duress while maintaining social distance integrity; guidance for how to improve the Distance Learning program if we have to close the school again; etc.
It is our hope and intention as an Association to strengthen the reopening plan so that more members of the faculty and staff understand it, support it, and can implement it to keep our students and the families of our learning community safe.”
Parents and Guardians have been asked to choose either 100% virtual or the hybrid plan by Aug. 14. See reopening plan and link to choose here.