SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD, NJ -- A group of 40-50 parents of students in the Scotch Plains-Fanwood SPFK12 school district held an impassioned rally outside Park Middle School in Scotch Plains late Tuesday afternoon in support of in-school learning for their children.
Organizer Danielle Prussin Wildstein told the crowd that Summit, Clark, and Cranford are going back to in-class instruction in September, and Scotch Plains-Fanwood should, too.
The mother of a rising second grader, Wildstein said that remote learning was a disaster for her son and that her kids were enrolled in a soccer camp in Fanwood during the summer. She expressed frustration that parents did not have a chance to ask questions during the BOE's virtual online presentations last week.
"If you give me information that I don't understand, I should be able to ask about it," Wildstein said. "What message is her (Dr. Joan Mast) sending to other towns? Is she saying they are unsafe to be opening without MERV filters?"
“We are here because we want that choice [for hybrid instruction] back. Respect our opinion," the passionate Wildstein told the crowd, adding that she had 660 comments under her Facebook post announcing the rally. Many of the posts, she described as "nasty."
Wildstein said her frustration has been the lack of communication since school ended. She said that the JCC has been "hitting it out of the park" in communicating about their school plans, but has been disappointed by the SPFK12 district and by the email sent to parents on Friday at 10:00 p.m.
"Give us facts. What are you going to do and when," she asked.
"Include us. We did surveys, but we couldn't speak during the 28-minute town hall meeting. Have a conversation," Wildstein said. "(Dr. Mast) said she just found out about filters in an executive order on Thursday? That's just not true."
Wildstein said that she has asked for a one-on-one conversation with the superintendent.
"Send me your town hall questions at firstname.lastname@example.org," Wildstein announced. "We want a voice. We want inclusion. It's not that I want my kids at school just because I don't want to watch them."
A male attendee who declined to give his name is angry because he believes the school system is frightening the children.
"They are told they are going to get sick (if they come to school). They tell a five-year-old they're going to die," he said. "That's what they are doing."
"I'm here because we should have a choice, we had a choice," Amanda Hudes said. "We took a survey for virtual vs hybrid, and most of us chose hybrid. That choice was taken away from us."
"At home learning is not the way to teach a kid, their social development and educational development is severely hindered," another dad who asked to remain anonymous told TAPintoSPF.
While most parents went out of their way to express appreciation for teachers, one held a sign that said "Science, not teachers unions." (TAPintoSPF was unable to reach the local teachers union rep for comment.)
"I feel we live in a state that needs to open," another parent said. "When I got that letter I felt extremely hopeless."
The next BOE meeting is scheduled for Thursday, August 27.
Ian Gordon contributed to this story.
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