The New Jersey Public Employee Relations Commission decided last Sunday that Paterson Public Schools will open on June 1, and it will.  

The point of the district allowing Paterson Education Association (PEA) delegates to inspect air ventilators was for them to tell us what issues they may have found and where they are so that we could address them immediately. We received no such communication from the PEA leadership. Instead, they used this past week’s walkthroughs to create a few videos that give a pinhole’s perspective of building conditions. They used the videos to launch a social media campaign to heighten anxiety among their members and as well as parents. 

Unfortunately, there are many PEA members who want to return to working in person, and hundreds of them have been working in our buildings already for several months.  

I greatly appreciate those PEA members who volunteered – even though the PEA leadership told them not to – and helped our efforts to distribute meals to students and provide students with devices and internet access.  

Many Paterson Public Schools employees worked round the clock and used 19.6 million federal dollars to install several layers of protection to make school buildings safe. Many times, I have listed the protections and protocols that are in place in our schools. Those protections include ionic air purifiers in every room (including offices), air scrubbers with HEPA filters classrooms that do not have windows, and air blasters for larger areas such as cafeterias and auditoriums.    

In April, we showed those protections on walkthroughs with PEA delegates and many of them commented that their own children’s schools had not done half of what Paterson Public Schools had done to protect students and staff.  

From the beginning of the pandemic, I have said that data will be our guide and safety will be our priority when it comes to deciding when to resume in-person instruction. The data is now favorable. With the protections in place and everyone complying with the protocols, the conditions are safe.  

Now it’s time to put our students’ needs first and follow through with our plan to resume in-person instruction.