There is an old saying, "Don't learn safety by accident."  As we debate the return to in-person instruction the one thing we don’t want is to compromise the health and safety of those in school. If you haven’t already, I urge all stakeholders and those worried about whether their child is going to contract the virus to do so. The Paterson Education Association (PEA) has read it, and we believe firmly that the District's reopening plan is hazardous at best, and places your child, our educators, and the entire city of Paterson at risk.

Here are just some of the faults in the District's plan:

1.  No mandatory temperature checks for all occupants of each building.
2.  Open water fountains for all to drink.
3.  Isolation rooms for those exhibiting symptoms.
4.  Inadequate access to reliable and timely testing.
5.  Inadequate access to personal protective equipment (1 mask every 3 months).
6.  Inadequate HVAC systems possessing HEPA filters.

Sign Up for Paterson Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

Like many parents throughout Paterson, we are equally as frustrated with the District's hazardous reopening experiment.  Like you, we also want all schools to reopen, but not at the expense of making children and educators sick.  Like you, we demand that the Paterson Board of Education follow the lead of cities like Trenton and Willingboro and pass a resolution to reopen the schools this September utilizing an "All Virtual Format." New Jersey's public schools are OUR schools. Parents, educators, faith-based communities, as well as elected officials, must be the voice of reason and do what is right to protect all that come in contact with our school community.  They say that it takes a village to raise a child; it also takes a village to protect them.

During the pandemic, the Paterson community has gone through many difficult times.  We all know of someone that has either been ill with the virus or worse, lost their battle against it.  But we don’t have to accept that fate. We have the power to tell the decision-makers in Paterson and Trenton that the only way to keep our school communities safe right now is through an all virtual format.

We must take a stand against any plan that is hazardous, reckless, and potentially deadly.  I encourage all parents and educators to attend the upcoming Paterson virtual Board meeting on Wednesday, August 12.  Sign up to speak and make your voices heard.  But let’s not stop there: Instead of working on plans that are destined to fail, let's work together to create a virtual learning experience that parents, educators, and our students can be proud of.  Our union stands ready to work with any parents who wish to see a more robust virtual learning program until it’s S.A.F.E to reopen.

John McEntee, Jr. is the President of the Paterson Education Association, the union that represents more than 3,000 education professionals in Paterson's public schools.