PARAMUS, New Jersey (WABC) -- One school district in New Jersey is delaying the start of in-person learning.
Paramus School District made the decision Monday night, changing the start date of in-person learning from September 8 to November 9.
"While circumstances dictated the need for this adjustment, it is nonetheless an extremely disappointing turn of events for our students, parents/guardians, administration, faculty, staff, and Board of Education," Paramus Superintendent Sean Adams wrote in a letter to parents. "In addition to the communications I have received from parents/guardians expressing their hopes for a quick return to in-person learning, I have received an equally significant number of emails and calls from our teaching and support staff expressing the same shared desire: that our schools are opened for in-person learning as quickly as possible."
Parent Sonya Karas said some students were eager to get back in the classroom.
The board blames a lack of staffing due to the pandemic and says the delay gives them more time to hire people and conduct background checks.
"Although the district continues to meet all existing NJDOE health and safety guidelines for reopening, the district is currently unable to meet the staffing levels required to implement these guidelines and ensure proper monitoring and supervision for health and safety," Adams said.
Adams stated the staff worked "tirelessly" to ensure buildings were fully prepared.
"Our administrative, secretarial, information technology, and custodial/grounds staff have worked tirelessly to ensure our buildings are fully prepared so that we all could welcome our students back at the beginning of the year," he said. "Many of our teachers have been spending these past few weeks setting up their classrooms to ensure the learning environment is warm, welcoming, and nurturing for our students. However, the seemingly relentless nature of this pandemic, and the corresponding required changes in statute, policy, and Federal/State directives, continue to present new and often untimely challenges to us all."
The Paramus superintendent blames the recent increase in the number of school districts in the area delaying the start of their own in-person school years, a situation that requires many employers to provide parents/guardians who live in those districts with leaves under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
The teachers union also became concerned over the HVAC systems in the schools.
(from shari mendelson: president education association of paramus)
"Unfortunately, some of our HVAC units take the MERV 5 filter, which will not filter out the virus in the classroom," said Shari Mendelson, President of Education Association of Paramus.
The union says the MERV 13 is recommended, but the system can't handle the stress load caused by using the higher level filters. It presented a big challenge to in-class instruction
Officials say the first day for virtual learning is unchanged and will begin on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Gov. Phil Murphy says he "fully expects" schools offering in-person learning to start next week "absent any unforeseen issues."
"I fully expect our educators, administrators, support staff, students, and families will be at the ready to get working to make our public schools #1 in the nation for three years in a row," Murphy said.
Twice as many school districts in New Jersey will have some sort of in-person learning than all-remote.
Gov. Murphy said "every school district is unique" and that "there are no, and can be no, one-size-fits-all measures."
"There will nearly be as many paths to reopening as there are school districts - and that's exactly how it should be," he said.
Murphy added the state has provided district leaders with what they need.
"We're confident that the steps we have in place will make the kind of chaotic situations we've seen in other states far less likely to happen in ours," he said. "We also have in place specific health guidance for what to do when a case arises in a school, or if we see a spike in cases or a cluster in school. We are ready."
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