CAMDEN, NJ — Camden students will begin the school year solely online, Superintendent Katrina McCombs said Wednesday.
The announcement this evening comes off the heels of Gov. Phil Murphy allowing schools unable to accommodate in-person learning to remain online amid the coronavirus pandemic. It is welcome news for many advocates in the city, who have implored the district to remain virtual until it is safer to fully reopen buildings.
“It has become increasingly more difficult to be able to say with integrity as a superintendent that we would be able to really meet all the requirements necessary [for students] to go back because of staffing limitations,” McCombs told ABC’s Channel 6 this evening.
At the end of July, McCombs announced a hybrid plan that comprised both remote and virtual learning but left the door open for that to change in light of the governor’s guidance.
In a recent interview with TAPinto, the superintendent touched on the need for substitute teachers given staff shortages.
Roughly one-third of the Camden City School District’s (CCSD) teachers said they would not return to classrooms and the parents of about half of the 6,800 traditional public school students said they were not comfortable with in-person learning.
The district did not immediately respond to questions regarding how far into the fall and winter remote learning will remain in place.
"Our commitment to meeting the conditions on the ground with flexibility has not changed. Our focus on protecting students, families, and educators has not changed. When our schools open in September, they must be ready to safely provide the high-quality education to all students that is a hallmark of New Jersey," Murphy said during today’s coronavirus press briefing. "We know the first day of school is not going to be like any other in our history. We’re fully committed to getting this right."
Murphy said the state will provide more guidelines to schools by Thursday. More details for the CCSD are also expected at the next virtual school advisory board meeting Aug. 25 at 5:30 p.m.
In a statement Wednesday night following the update, the Camden Education Association said, "While we are truly relieved and thankful the district, like most our members, prioritized safety for students, staff and their families, we cannot forget those in our communities with more complicated economic needs. We are in this time and moment together."