Parents hold rally to open schools

West Milford. Group says they should have the right to choose between in-person and 100 percent virtual learning for their children.

10 Sep 2020 | 01:30

    On Monday, August 31st, a group of approximately 40-50 parents gathered together at Town Hall (with required masks and social distancing) for a “Rally to Open West Milford Schools”.

    According to a flyer circulated on social media, parents were asked to attend the rally if they believe:

    ● They should have the right to choose between in-person and 100 percent virtual learning;

    ● That 100 percent virtual learning is detrimental to children’s educational and social development, and also outweighs the risk of COVID-19;

    ● That the school district is not providing the excellence in education expected by taxpayers; and

    ● It is unfair for parents to have to give up employment or pay for childcare to manage at-home learning.

    According to Lesla Orsino, unofficial spokesperson for the group, the rally “...was more like an outdoor meeting of people with the mutual goal of getting our kids the best education. We will be trying to get an emergency board meeting to address the in-person start delay.”

    Sept. 1 letter

    The group discussed ideas and a letter was drafted and sent on Sept 1 to the Board of Education Trustees, District Administration, Teachers’ Union, and members of the press on behalf of over 50 West Milford parents.

    At the core of the letter were these points:

    “We, parents and caregivers for the children of West Milford, request an emergency Board of Education meeting to discuss, in depth, the reasons for virtual education extending to Oct. 1, 2020 and the plan to return on October 1, 2020.

    “As parents and caregivers, we are advocating for you to provide in-person instruction to our children.

    “Our children rely on teachers and the education they provide. Virtual teaching just does not offer the same benefits to our children, especially with “unique learners” such as children with learning disabilities or exceptional learners. Virtual learning should remain an option for families with vulnerable members, but in-person is a must to begin on October 1, 2020.”

    The group requested a meeting immediately in a venue large enough to accommodate families and the public that wish to attend. We would like the meeting scheduled within 72 hours of this public notice.

    Superintendent replies

    Superintendent of Schools Alex Anemone replied the following day:

    The Board schedules its meetings for the year in January at the Reorganization meeting. Our next scheduled meeting is Tuesday, September 22 and I don’t think we will have an opportunity to change that date. Our Board members are volunteers and typically leave their Tuesday evenings free to attend to BOE business, either in committee or a full Board meeting. I am aware that Gov. Murphy has raised the attendance limit on indoor events and we will be able to accept more attendees at our meeting on the 22nd. The 25 person limit (which included Board members and admin) was frustrating to all.

    I am willing to meet with you at your earliest convenience as I think these issues might be easier to discuss in person as opposed to a series of emails back and forth. I am available by cell too 201-452-7998.

    Parents reply

    Orsino sent the following reply:

    “As you read in the previous email, a one-to-one discussion between you and me is not appropriate. We now have over 60 families that want to have a public discussion on the points noted in the original email. An emergency meeting is essential for our community to hear from the board and administration to discuss return to in-person instruction.”

    Orsino referred to the Kinnelon School District, where parents held a similar rally in August, and were successful at pressing the BOE and administration into reversing the planned 100 percent virtual return to school back to a hybrid model. According to district records, the Kinnelon School District hired “Guidehouse,” an outside consulting firm, to assist with their reopening plan; and delayed their school opening date until September 8th for additional staff training. They then opened schools under a hybrid program.

    The West Milford Board of Education will hold their monthly Workshop/Regular Meeting on Tuesday, September 22nd at 7:00 pm as scheduled in the Westbrook Elementary School Media Center. A live stream broadcast of the meeting is available to view in the district website. The public is also able to email questions/ statements to the Board Secretary at barbara.francisco@wmtps.org in advance or when the meeting is in progress.