To the Editor: We, the undersigned, are writing to you to express concern over the Berkeley Heights Board of Education’s decision to physically reopen the six school buildings and the administrative building using the current proposed reopening plan commonly referred to as Plan B. In short, Plan B calls for a 50% physical return of students to school on any given school day while the remaining students will join live classes via videoconferencing.

We are proud members of the Berkeley Heights Education Association (BHEA), an affiliate of the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA).

BHEA membership is available to the following employees of the Berkeley Heights Public Schools: athletic trainer, child study team members, custodians, educational Sign Language interpreters, guidance counselors, maintenance personnel, media specialists, nurses, occupational therapists, paraprofessionals, physical therapists, secretaries, teachers, and transportation personnel.

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As of August 20, 2020, there are 362 members of the BHEA.

The BHEA conducted a survey of its members from Friday, July 31 to Tuesday, August 4 to obtain their opinion on the publicly released reopening plans developed for selection by the Berkeley Heights Board of Education.  The Berkeley Heights Board of Education did not survey its employees prior to selecting a reopening plan at their July 30 meeting.

The results of the survey only reflect the opinions of the BHEA members.  It does not include opinions from district employees who are not members due to choice or ineligibility due to job title (i.e. administrator).  We are including the results of this survey in this petition as some results have been cited at the August 13 Berkeley Heights Board of Education meeting and we would like to add this information to the public record.

Based on member participation, the survey has a margin of error of ± 7%.

Which reopening plan do you prefer?

  • Plan A: 9.3%
  • Plan B: 34.3%
  • Plan C: 56.4%

Which physical return to school plan do you prefer?

  • Plan A: 10.0%
  • Plan B: 90.0%

At what point do you feel safe returning to work?

  • I feel safe now based on the details of plan A: 9.3%
  • I will feel safe to return once a vaccine is developed: 2.9%
  • I will feel safe to return once a proven vaccine is developed: 10.7%
  • I will feel safe to return once a proven vaccine is developed and widely available for all: 58.6%
  • Other: 18.5%

If you did not have to worry about your salary and health benefits, would you have requested a leave of absence for any part of the 2020-2021 school year?

  • Yes: 63.6%
  • No: 36.4%

We, the undersigned, believe that reopening Plan B, while thoughtful, does not adequately mitigate the numerous risks associated with COVID-19.  As a result, the currently adopted reopening plan compromises the health and safety of the entire community.

We want more than anything to be able to welcome our students back to the schools and classrooms; however, we believe that the current reopening plan requires further development to ensure that a safe opening can be achieved and the NJDOE minimum guidelines can be met, sustained, and enforced.

As stated, we are extremely concerned about the health and safety of all students, staff, and the community as a whole.  There is very limited data available about the long-term effects of COVID-19 in children and adolescents.  Amidst this, there is growing proof that this virus is spreading at alarming rates in children under 18.  Simply put, the risks to the physical health, mental health, and lives of stakeholders is unacceptable.  Our highest concerns with the district’s physical reopening plan are:

  1. Why does the Board of Education feel that meeting minimum safety standards for air quality is acceptable, ignoring CDC recommendations for higher standards with MERV-13 or HEPA filters?
  2. How will the district ensure that classrooms, bathrooms, playgrounds, high-touch areas, and common areas are cleaned after each use?
  3. How can the Board of Education push a plan that has teachers instructing students both in-person and remotely when such an approach will lead to inequities in learning as demonstrated during a simulated 30-minute lesson on August 20 with administration and teachers playing the role of students?

We believe that adequate training is essential for the staff who will be expected to maintain safe conditions for students while also trying to maintain our own personal health and safety.  Currently, there is no training time set aside prior to student arrival on September 3.

We believe that the public health crisis has not sufficiently abated to the point where any school district officials can guarantee a safe reopening for students and staff.

We believe that the only definitive way to guarantee the protection of students, staff, and community at this time is to operate on an all-virtual instructional plan until more scientific data can drive better and more confident decisions.

We believe the best way to deliver meaningful instruction during this crisis when it is impossible for all students to return as normal would be to have every student participate in instruction via the same remote platform.

We, the undersigned, urge you to consider these concerns, and we recommend that the district begin the school year remotely in order to allow additional time for further considerations, preparations, development, and training.

Thank you,

 

  • Ms. Jennifer Aragona, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Catherine Avino, Media Specialist at Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Lisa Babic, Teacher at Columbia Middle School
  • Ms. Elizabeth Bartlett, Guidance Counselor at Thomas P. Hughes Elementary School
  • Mrs. Helen Bartolick, Teacher at William Woodruff Elementary School
  • Ms. Lauren Basile, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Mrs. Ann Bird, Child Study Team Member at Thomas P. Hughes Elementary School and William Woodruff Elementary School
  • Ms. Catherine Birstler, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Karen Bocian, Teacher at Mary Kay McMillin Early Childhood Center
  • Ms. Britney Bohling, Teacher at Columbia Middle School
  • Ms. Donna Bokach, Teacher at Columbia Middle School
  • Mr. Benjamin Bolger, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Mrs. Tracy Bostwick, Secretary at The Clausen Administrative Complex
  • Ms. Carolyn Bowden, Teacher at Thomas P. Hughes Elementary School
  • Ms. Gale Bradford, Teacher at Thomas P. Hughes Elementary School
  • Mr. Tyler Brown, Teacher at Mountain Park Elementary School
  • Ms. Dawn Buchan, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Mr. Steven Buonaspina, Teacher at Columbia Middle School
  • Ms. Sarah Burga, Teacher at William Woodruff Elementary School
  • Ms. April Burke, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Mrs. Karen Calabrese, Teacher at William Woodruff Elementary School
  • Ms. Clarissa Candelaria, Paraprofessional at Columbia Middle School
  • Mrs. Nicole Carotenuto, Paraprofessional at Columbia Middle School
  • Ms. Diana Cavanaugh, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Carol Chory, Teacher at Columbia Middle School
  • Ms. Theresa Chrobok, Teacher at Thomas P. Hughes Elementary School
  • Ms. Jeanmarie Ciarrocca, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Mr. Steven Ciarrocca, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Jennifer Ciccone, Teacher at Columbia Middle School
  • Mr. Thomas Clayton, Teacher at Columbia Middle School
  • Mr. Chris Colaneri, Teacher at Columbia Middle School
  • Ms. Ashlee Combe, Teacher at Columbia Middle School
  • Ms. Diane Corley, Teacher at Columbia Middle School
  • Mr. Michael Coughlin, Paraprofessional at Governor Livingston High School
  • Mrs. Renee Curcio, Secretary at Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Gianna Czerniak, Teacher at Columbia Middle School
  • Ms. Genevieve Dagan, Teacher at William Woodruff Elementary School
  • Mr. Matthew Dailey, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Mrs. Kim Delatour, Teacher at William Woodruff Elementary School
  • Ms. Lisa DeMarco, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Mary Catherine Dendinger, Teacher at Mary Kay McMillin Early Childhood Center
  • Ms. Tereza DePaola, Paraprofessional at Columbia Middle School
  • Mrs. Lisa Dhaibar, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Mrs. Loriann DiBelardino, Teacher at Thomas P. Hughes Elementary School
  • Mrs. Lisa DiMaggio, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Teresa DiMartino, Teacher at Columbia Middle School and Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Christine DiNoia, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Mr. Vincenzo Domingo, Custodian at Columbia Middle School
  • Ms. Rhonda Einhorn, Teacher at Columbia Middle School
  • Mr. Josef Ellis, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Erica Elmi, Paraprofessional at Columbia Middle School
  • Ms. Ursula Engel, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Sarah Fernandes, Child Study Team Member at Columbia Middle School
  • Ms. Laura Ferreira, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Julie Figlar, Teacher at Mary Kay McMillin Early Childhood Center
  • Ms. Kimberly Fleming, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Johannah Frankenbush, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Mrs. Gail Friedenberg, Paraprofessional at Mountain Park Elementary School
  • Ms. Christina Froehlich, Teacher at Columbia Middle School
  • Ms. Carla Gamba, Teacher at Mountain Park Elementary School
  • Ms. Noelia Garcia, Teacher at Columbia Middle School
  • Mr. Michael Gasparini, Custodian at Columbia Middle School
  • Ms. Jeannette Gates, Child Study Team Member at Governor Livingston High School
  • Mrs. Mary Gauthier, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Ilene Gerstenfeld, Child Study Team Member at Mary Kay McMillin Early Childhood Center
  • Mrs. Leigh Gillespie, Teacher at Mountain Park Elementary School
  • Mrs. Cheryl Gillick, Secretary at Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Lindsey Gismonde, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Heather Goldstein, Guidance Counselor at Mary Kay McMillin Early Childhood Center and Mountain Park Elementary School
  • Mrs. Wendi Goldstein, Teacher at Mountain Park Elementary School and William Woodruff Elementary School
  • Mr. Paul Grant, Child Study Team Member at Mary Kay McMillin Early Childhood Center
  • Mrs. Maria Graziano, Teacher at Mountain Park Elementary School
  • Mr. David Grego, Teacher at Mountain Park Elementary School, Thomas P. Hughes Elementary School, and William Woodruff Elementary School
  • Mr. Vin Gulbin, Teacher at Columbia Middle School
  • Mrs. Marcie Hall, Teacher at Columbia Middle School
  • Mr. William Halleran, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Dr. Heather Hammett, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Mr. Terrence Hanratty, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Jennifer Hanselman, Teacher at Thomas P. Hughes Elementary School and William Woodruff Elementary School
  • Ms. Belinda Healey, Teacher at Columbia Middle School
  • Mr. Gary Healey, Teacher at Columbia Middle School
  • Ms. Marcy Helmstetter, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Mr. Steven Hess, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Mrs. Patty Hetherington, Teacher at Columbia Middle School
  • Ms. Kelly Hill, Teacher at Columbia Middle School
  • Mr. Todd Hirsch, Athletic Trainer at Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Margaret Hodge, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Mrs. Megan Hoffman, Teacher at Columbia Middle School
  • Mrs. Gina Holzmann, Teacher at Mountain Park Elementary School
  • Mr. Ryan Jendrek, Teacher at Columbia Middle School
  • Mrs. Jodi Jensen, Paraprofessional at Columbia Middle School
  • Mrs. Joanne Jocus, Teacher at Thomas P. Hughes Elementary School
  • Mr. Thomas Kamp, Teacher at Columbia Middle School
  • Mr. Jason Karl, Teacher at Columbia Middle School
  • Ms. Patricia Kelly, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Lisa Ketcherick, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Robyn Koenigsberg, Teacher at Columbia Middle School*
  • Mr. Neal Korn, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Maria Koulouroudis, Teacher at Columbia Middle School
  • Ms. Kimberley Lalley, Educational Sign Language Interpreter at Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Susan LaMaita, Paraprofessional at Mary Kay McMillin Early Childhood Center
  • Ms. Erin Lanigan, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Mr. Joe Lanni, Teacher at Columbia Middle School
  • Ms. Leslie Lesly, Teacher at Columbia Middle School
  • Ms. Michele Liss, Teacher at William Woodruff Elementary School
  • Ms. Elizabeth Lodge, Educational Sign Language Interpreter at Governor Livingston High School
  • Mr. Christopher Loeffler, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Emily Long, Nurse at Thomas P. Hughes Elementary School
  • Ms. Nancy Luciano, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Lorraine Lyness, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Mr. Matthew Madura, Teacher at Thomas P. Hughes Elementary School
  • Ms. Gillian Mahy, Teacher at Columbia Middle School
  • Mrs. Nicole Manganelli, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Cynthia Manto, Child Study Team Member at Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Toby Marcus, Child Study Team Member at The Clausen Administrative Complex
  • Ms. Elissa Marks, Teacher at Columbia Middle School
  • Mr. Jeffrey Marretta, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Anne Marie Martis, Secretary at Columbia Middle School
  • Mr. Jeremy Marx, Teacher at Columbia Middle School
  • Ms. Ellen Massa, Teacher at Thomas P. Hughes Elementary School
  • Ms. Kathy McCullough, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Dawn McGann, Teacher at Columbia Middle School*
  • Dr. Heather McGarry, Child Study Team Member at Thomas P. Hughes Elementary School
  • Mr. Daniel McGovern, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School and BHEA President
  • Ms. Lara Mendenhall, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Marilyn Merrill, Media Specialist at Mountain Park Elementary School
  • Mr. Joseph Miceli, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Andrea Candi Miller, Paraprofessional at Thomas P. Hughes Elementary School
  • Mrs. Nadezhda Mims, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Lindsay Mirabella, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Geralyn Mohr, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Melissa Mohr, Child Study Team Member at Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Lisa Moretti, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School and BHEA Treasurer
  • Dr. Meredith Morgan, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Michelle Morin, Guidance Counselor at Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Jody Morrison, Secretary at Thomas P. Hughes Elementary School
  • Ms. Mary Niedenfuhr, Media Specialist at Mary Kay McMillin Early Childhood Center and Thomas P. Hughes Elementary School
  • Ms. Shannon O'Shea, Teacher at Mary Kay McMillin Early Childhood Center and Thomas P. Hughes Elementary School
  • Mr. Nicholas O'Sullivan, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School and BHEA Vice President
  • Ms. Jenna Odin, Paraprofessional at Thomas P. Hughes Elementary School
  • Ms. Tiffany Pellew, Paraprofessional at Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Sadie Pepitone, Teacher at Mary Kay McMillin Early Childhood Center
  • Mrs. Linda Place, Paraprofessional at Mary Kay McMillin Early Childhood Center
  • Mrs. Susan Poage, Teacher at Mary Kay McMillin Early Childhood Center
  • Ms. Pam Pomo, Paraprofessional at Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Susan Prendeville, Nurse at Columbia Middle School
  • Ms. Tracy Procaccini, Paraprofessional at Governor Livingston High School
  • Mr. Jared Prupis, Teacher at Mountain Park Elementary School
  • Ms. Carolyn Quigley, Guidance Counselor at Governor Livingston High School
  • Mr. Eli Quinonez, Teacher at Mountain Park Elementary School
  • Ms. Judith Ramalho, Paraprofessional at Mountain Park Elementary School
  • Ms. Ashley Reedy, Secretary at Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Wendy Richards, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Mr. David Rien, Transportation Personnel at The Clausen Administrative Complex
  • Mr. M Riley, Teacher at Columbia Middle School
  • Ms. Beryl Roman, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Mr. Chris Roof, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Laurie Rossiter, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Katherine Rottenberg, Teacher at Mary Kay McMillin Early Childhood Center and BHEA Secretary
  • Mr. James Rutzler, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Mrs. Mary Ann Sabella, Paraprofessional at Thomas P. Hughes Elementary School
  • Mrs. Carol Sangiovanni, Teacher at Mary Kay McMillin Early Childhood Center
  • Ms. Stacey Saravay, Teacher at Mountain Park Elementary School
  • Ms. Carol Scales, Teacher at Mary Kay McMillin Early Childhood Center
  • Mrs. Tobey Schocklin, Teacher at Thomas P. Hughes Elementary School
  • Ms. Deborah Scialfa, Teacher at Columbia Middle School
  • Dr. Peter Sempepos, Child Study Team Member at Columbia Middle School
  • Ms. Emily Sena, Teacher at Columbia Middle School
  • Mr. Richard Shea, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Joanne Sheehan, Teacher at Columbia Middle School
  • Ms. Marisa Sherman, Paraprofessional at Columbia Middle School
  • Ms. Rebecca Siebelts, Teacher at Columbia Middle School
  • Mr. Steve Siebelts, Child Study Team Member at Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Patrice Silagi, Teacher at Columbia Middle School*
  • Mrs. Annamarie Simonelli, Teacher at Mountain Park Elementary School
  • Ms. Haley Smith, Teacher at Mountain Park Elementary School
  • Mr. Bruno Somma, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Stephanie Spano, Teacher at Mountain Park Elementary School, Thomas P. Hughes Elementary School, and William Woodruff Elementary School
  • Ms. Andrea Sperling, Teacher at Columbia Middle School
  • Dr. Emilija Spirovski, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Lisa Sullivan, Paraprofessional at Mountain Park Elementary School
  • Ms. Staci Toporek, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Kimberly Tota, Teacher at Columbia Middle School
  • Ms. Deborah Velelis, Guidance Counselor at Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Michelle Vieira, Teacher at Columbia Middle School*
  • Ms. Tracey Wahlers, Paraprofessional at Columbia Middle School
  • Ms. Lisa Wasser-Berlin, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School
  • Mr. James Weaver, Child Study Team Member at Governor Livingston High School
  • Mrs. Kristine Weber, Teacher at Columbia Middle School
  • Ms. Pamela Wilczynski, Teacher at Thomas P. Hughes Elementary School
  • Ms. Melinda Willson, Child Study Team Member at Columbia Middle School and Governor Livingston High School
  • Ms. Megan Wranitz, Teacher at Governor Livingston High School

 

* This member has been on leave from the district for some time during the 2019-2020 school year and is technically not a member of the BHEA at this moment; however, this member will rejoin the BHEA once the leave has concluded.