EDISON, NJ- Like many teachers throughout the United States, those who teach at Saint Thomas Aquinas High School (STAHS) fear conducting in-school classes while COVID-19 continues to spread.
Despite at least eleven teachers announcing their retirements, STAHS plans to hold in-person classes. They have, however, offered parents an option for their children to participate in virtual learning.
High-risk teachers feel that the school is disregarding their needs. In addition, members of the faculty have not directly received information about the fall semester and rely on the school’s website and Facebook page posts for announcements and updates.
Many teachers are frustrated and distressed because parents are receiving more information directly from Principal Harry Ziegler than they are. A concerned teacher who spoke to TAPinto Edison reported that the teachers’ contracts specifically state that the school will not pay for any medical expenses incurred by COVID.
She also commented, “Teachers are not being offered an opportunity to teach virtually. They are not being offered medical pay or paid leave.” She added, “If they catch COVID they are on their own financially. In addition, teachers will be expected to clean their own classrooms.”
The source continued, “Teachers are upset about this and are terrified of their futures. While parents are presented with a happy, positive view of the upcoming school year, teachers are left without any communication from administrators.”
Teachers are concerned and dismayed that they are not being reassured about their well-being and safety. They feel that they are not valued and are worried about the future of the school because of understaffing and administrators not communicating with them directly about the back to school plan.
In addition to the challenges of adapting to the pandemic and being understaffed, the school has undergone administrative changes. Harry Ziegler, last year’s associate principal, became the principal this year when former Principal, Sister Donna Trukowski, assumed the role of the school president.
The website and Facebook pages enthuse, “We are committed to re-opening St. Thomas Aquinas High School on a full-time, regular schedule, and providing students with the academic, extracurricular, and spiritual opportunities that contribute to a rewarding educational experience.” It continues, “Thankfully, our school building is exceptionally large and allows us to comfortably educate our students while allowing for social distancing.”
They also promise, “Rest assured that we are taking all precautions to provide a safe environment.” In addition, it acknowledges that they will provide remote learning if it is mandated by Governor Phil Murphy.”
Catholic schools rely on tuition revenue for 80% of their budget. The rest is comprised of donations and fundraising. Some teachers feel that STAHS wants classes taught in the school building to ensure that students will enroll. They think the school fears remote learning might result in fewer families choosing to pay for a parochial school.
Many Catholic schools have been closing in recent years and the pandemic is exacerbating the closers. According to northjerseynews.com, eight north New Jersey Catholic schools are closing permanently because of COVID.
The National Catholic Educational Association reported that the decrease in Catholic schools nationwide since 2010 was 911 (12.8%).
Editor’s note: TAPinto Edison contacted the STAHS senior administration for comment but no statement was provided in time for this publication.