The COVID-19 pandemic has helped underscore the socio-economic, racial, and educational differences across the nation, including in Newark.
A return to normal is needed as soon as possible to stop further learning losses caused by COVID conditions.
For a Newark-based educational attorney, getting back to best learning practices in the city’s public and charter schools is a shared goal and a unique opportunity.
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“Vaccine distribution and access need to be radically accelerated in Newark and elsewhere. We’re still way behind,” said Kyle Rosenkrans, executive director of the New Jersey Children’s Foundation, a nonprofit group committed to improving the public education system in Newark and all over Newark is New Jersey.
“And as in many cities with this poverty, access and trust in the vaccine is still not where we want it to be,” said Rosenkrans. “At the same time, recovery from COVID gives us the opportunity to achieve things we haven’t seen in our lives.”
Rosenkrans added that this was not because the challenge in distributing vaccines was not due to a lack of effort. He notes that the vaccine distribution in Essex County has been exceptionally strong. Combined with the leadership of Mayor Baraka and the efforts of anchor institutions such as United Way, University Hospital, and community-level organizations, he is “optimistic” about Newark’s ability to be successful here as well.
Last week, the US Food and Drug Administration recommended that the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine be made available to children ages 12-15. In Newark, the FEMA vaccination center at the New Jersey Institute of Technology began vaccinating teenagers with the Pfizer vaccine last week.
There is an urgent need in Newark to speed up vaccinations. By May 15, 35% of Newark residents had received at least one dose of vaccine and 26% were fully vaccinated, according to the state COVID-19 data dashboard. For comparison: By May 15, 56 percent of the population had been vaccinated.
In addition to the immediate need to speed up vaccinations, there are long-term effects due to the declining vaccination rate in Newark.
“I think COVID-19 exacerbates pre-existing inequalities in access to quality education and in access to subjects like reading, math and science at the class level. The patterns will get worse before they get better,” Rosenkrans said.
“I’m sure we will see that if vaccination rates for families, parents and teachers improve, you can stop widening the education gap,” said Rosenkrans. “Not rushing vaccinations is an obstacle to going back to what will really help us address this issue, which is going back to school full-time, each child personally, where teachers, paraprofessionals and specialists can dedicate themselves for kids the kind of support they need. ”
At the same time, Rosenkrans pointed out that while parents are concerned about their children’s education, the impact of COVID-19 on their children remains their primary concern.
“Right now there is more concern for the health of their families and their children than the demands one sees from largely white suburban parenting groups who want to get back to school regardless of the cost. There is more reluctance in cities like Newark, “Rosenkrans said, adding that changing the public health strategy against COVID-19 in the city, including roving vaccination clinics and distribution at access points in neighborhoods rather than downtown centers, will ultimately help that Curb the spread of the virus.
While COVID-19 is still the most pressing immediate problem for the city’s district and charter schools, Newark is also on the brink of what could be the biggest fund boost ever for its schools.
The funds that schools in Newark will benefit from under the CARES Act and the second stimulus package under former President Donald Trump and the American rescue plan under current President Joe Biden could amount to up to $ 500 million, according to Rosenkrans estimates.
The dramatic inflow of education funds is promising, but it can also be traced back to another nine-figure, one-time stroke of luck for Newark schools.
In 2010, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg pledged $ 100 million to modernize schools in Newark. The social media magnate’s promise was announced with great gusto when Republican Governor Chris Christie and then-Mayor of Newark and later US Senator Cory Booker stood next to Zuckerberg.
However, as documented in the book “The Prize” by renowned journalist Dale Russakoff, this grand gesture and this reform experiment was derailed in many ways by the reformers’ unwillingness to involve parents and teachers in shaping the necessary changes. Much of the money also went to the counselors’ coffers instead of going to reforms that would actually help local schools.
Rosenkrans believes things can be different in 2021.
“All plans must be submitted to the community for feedback. The school council members must oversee and account for the planning and implementation of these plans,” said Rosenkrans. “The press needs to track the progress of the use of funds, including the use of data to ensure incoming dollars are being productively spent as they should.”
Looking ahead, Rosenkrans said he was confident that Newark schools can return from the effects of COVID-19, as the city’s schools and their students have previously returned from serious adversity.
A recent Stanford University study found that Newark County and Charter Schools students had learning gains that surpassed the state’s public school system in reading and math. The study found that Newark’s three school types – public, charter, and magnet – collectively stimulated student learning at a pace “significantly” faster than the state average for reading during a three-year period and year studied between 2015 and 2018 in mathematics, while all years showed positive student learning gains, according to the report.
“We have a track record of public schools in Newark of all types outperforming the odds of accepting low-income color students and helping them learn math, reading, science, and other subjects above what their demographics and statistics are from them could predict. ” “Said Rosenkrans.
“We have the schools that are already going the extra mile, and if there is ever a time you can help kids catch up, it is now. We’re sitting on half a billion dollars and it’s been a pretty quiet talk. It doesn’t have one here Given Oprah moment, and I think we kind of need one, “Rosenkrans said.
“I think Newark is a treasure trove of schools and experts who know what they’re doing,” he said. “This is also an unprecedented moment. And if anyone can bring schools back completely after COVID, it will be us.”