Rahway Board of Education Vows to Protect Its Children So the Music May Carry On
Story by: Rob Kinch
Photo by: Chey Rivera
Their actions spoke louder than any words could. Classrooms were empty, frustrated students and parents were soldiering through the challenges of virtual learning, and school districts throughout the state were effecting plans to return to in person learning as soon as possible in a variety of formats. Rahway’s Board of Education however, along with the district’s Superintendent of Schools, boldly chose a different path. They listened to the science…and to their hearts. Since March 13, 2020, return to school dates were visited, revisited, and continually revised with one consideration remaining paramount: what’s best for the health of the children, their families, the community, the teachers, the administration, the staff and for all the people their lives, in turn, would ultimately touch. On Tuesday, Jan. 12, the Board approved a resolution to once again extend virtual learning, now until March.
Board President Brittany Hale explains, “We did not want ANY of our students or staff to risk exposing themselves or their families to COVID-19.” Vice-President Lori Kennedy firmly concurs. “The safety and health of our students and staff were ALWAYS the most important factor in our decisions to extend virtual learning.” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Patricia Camp, applying her analytical training as a scientist to educational issues, notes, “This has truly been a bizarre year!” “As educators, we all want our students back in school every day, all day. The students need us and we need them. But we must remember that before the students can learn they must be healthy and feel safe. I and the district’s Reopen Committee firmly believe that consistent education is important too – and so we have hesitated to open for in person teaching until we can be assured that once the students are in school, they can STAY in school.”
Yet what is their response to those who would quote figures that indicate children are safer in the classroom, that statistics show that there have been very low infection rates in school, and that the educational benefits far outweigh the risk? Board member Ray Lopez offers, “While it may be true that children are at minimal risk, there are so many other factors we must take into consideration. Families in our diverse community are constructed in many different ways. When polling these families, it was clear to the Board that the health and safety of everyone, including our teachers and staff, HAD to be our primary concern.” President Hale avers, “We have to consider our children’s health and safety and those they live with, not to mention our staff. We do not want to bring unnecessary risk into their homes.”
Response to the caring reflected in Board decisions to extend virtual learning have not gone unappreciated by administration, teachers, and community parents as well. High School Math teacher Jenna Scaletti notes, “I am so very thankful to our Board for continually extending the opening date of school. By doing this the lives of both Rahway students and teachers are not put at risk. What other district would do that? My students are still safely learning and I am grateful that our Board values everyone’s health as their priority.” Mr. Victor Motino, parent of RHS senior Victor ‘Jr.’, shares, “By keeping our kids safe, they are keeping us safe.”
By all accounts it is apparent that, thanks to the academic and community health influenced decisions of Rahway’s Board of Education and Superintendent, nothing will stop the music of education from playing on.