NEWARK, NJ — Newark Public Schools cut the ribbon on highly anticipated new school sites this week, but with the district’s remote learning period yet again extended, the gesture was a symbolic one as the schools remain unused.

Sir Isaac Newton Elementary School and the Newark School of Global Studies, whose plans were unveiled in November 2019, were rolled out as “schools of the future” and fully immersive learning environments. They’re the test pilots for an ambitious redistricting plan, which will establish a system of subject-focused elementary schools in every ward of the city that feed into corresponding magnet high schools. 

At Sir Isaac Newton, which is science-focused, the district had planned for students to participate in hands-on lab work. The Newark School of Global Studies was envisioned as an institution that will shape future diplomats. 

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As both schools, which started the year remotely, sit unused by students, acknowledging the district’s latest additions has required some improvising, as many of administrators’ best-laid plans have since COVID-19 touched down. 

“This has been a unique experience, just having today, making sure we get an opportunity to open the school symbolically, really,” said Nelson Ruiz, principal of the Newark School of Global Studies. “I think the students have done such a great job.” 

On Wednesday, Ruiz was joined by Superintendent Roger Leon, Newark Board of Education members and other dignitaries to cut the ribbon on his school. On Tuesday, Sir Isaac Newton Principal Francis Finazzo did the same at her location. District officials will travel to the new Newark Vocational High School on Thursday for the final ribbon-cutting ceremony.

School Business Administrator Valerie Wilson said the cost of the three schools was paid for through the district’s operating budget. Newark Vocational was the largest investment, she said, while the changes at the School of Global Studies and Sir Isaac Newton were primarily cosmetic. 

Superintendent Roger Leon, who extended the district’s remote learning period to Jan. 25 amid rising COVID-19 numbers, said at Tuesday’s NBOE business meeting that worsening infection rates in Newark have raised concerns about the latest return date. Wilson said Wednesday that while the district has experienced some uptick, all 64 locations are well-equipped to welcome students back.