Lakewood nj schools reopening

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4, students return for in-person learning in one New Jersey school district

LAKEWOOD, New Jersey (WABC) -- Roughly 4, students returned to school in one New Jersey town for the first day of in-person classes Friday.

The Lakewood School District is among 63 statewide offering full in-person instruction, though one of its schools was forced to delay its opening.

Lakewood Middle School won't be ready to open until next Tuesday because eight modular units -- one of their key social distancing initiatives to ease crowding -- aren't ready.

The middle school houses 1, students.

Related: NJ school district decides to delay in-person learning

For those who returned Friday, students and staff members were each given two reusable cloth masks and a face shield upon arrival.

Lakewood teachers had threatened a job action, claiming the schools are not safe, but only four teachers and two paraprofessionals called out of work Friday.

Twelve teachers and nine paraprofessionals are out under the CARES Act.

A district attorney said they could not report because they live in districts without in-person learning and needed to stay home.

The Lakewood School District is educating the children of six teachers whose home districts are not offering in-person learning.

Related: District gives every student Chromebook to make remote learning easier

Lakewood has 6, public school students, who account for just 14% of the township's total elementary and secondary school-age population, which is comprised mostly of 40, Orthodox Jewish children and teenagers enrolled in some private yeshivas.

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Two Lakewood Middle School workers submitted resignation letters due to concerns over the district’s plan to reopen five days a week amid the coronavirus pandemic, the local teacher’s union said.

In a Facebook post, the Lakewood Education Association shared two letters from union members who said they did not feel safe heading back to the classroom given the pandemic and what they called a lack of precautions to stop the spread of COVID The union represents approximately teachers, secretaries and paraprofessionals.

“The schools are crowded. The rooms are small. There are very little precautions in place. It is inevitable that not only teachers but also students’ family members will get sick. This is a plan that I cannot get behind,” one of the letters, dated Aug. 12, reads.

“Unfortunately due to the current COVID epidemic I am unable to continue my employment here. I do not feel safe exposing my 4 month old daughter to the possibility of contracting this virus,” the second letter, dated Aug. 17, says.

Last week, the union— which represents workers in the K district— began calling for the public to write to the school board in support of all-virtual instruction.

Kim Shaw, president of the Lakewood teacher’s union, said in a statement to NJ Advance Media that teachers shouldn’t be put in a position where they feel they must resign in order to keep themselves or a loved one safe.

The district’s current plan puts the community at risk, she said, given large class sizes, the inability to social distance and inadequate plexiglass barriers.

“Some teachers and staff members have health issues that put them at risk of death should they contract the virus. Others may live in households with family members whose health is compromised. No one should be put in a position where they feel that leaving their career is the only way to save their own life or that of a loved one,” Shaw said.

Lakewood is among the districts in New Jersey that has opted for in-person instruction in addition to offering a virtual option. Earlier this month, Gov. Phil Murphy announced that schools could start the year with virtual learning, but have to submit plans to the state for approval that include a date when in-person classes would resume.

Of New Jersey’s nearly school districts, have applied to begin the school year with all-remote learning while 59 districts plan to fully reopen with the rest of New Jersey’s districts moving forward with a hybrid mix of in-person and remote learning.

Michael Inzelbuch, the Lakewood school district’s attorney, said the workers who resigned due to coronavirus concerns were a teacher and a paraprofessional, and that there have been fewer resignations this summer than last summer.

He defended the district’s reopening plan, saying teachers are being given face coverings and there will be temperature checks. While overcrowding has been an issue at Lakewood schools in past years, Inzelbuch said construction began recently on modular units with eight classrooms at Lakewood Middle School set to possibly open in September.

He also said many Lakewood parents do not have jobs that allow them to work from home and that only 8% of students have chosen remote learning. Inzelbuch also said many of the district’s 6, public school students don’t have their own laptops or computers needed for at-home instruction.

“We are mitigating,” Inzelbuch said. “If we don’t open, how will our precious public school students going to get the education they’re entitled to?”

The district’s plan includes regular coronavirus testing for staff and students upon request, and Inzelbuch said about students and staff were tested over the past two days. The plan was approved by the state education department last Monday.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated with comments from the school district’s attorney.

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Avalon Zoppo may be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @AvalonZoppo.

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Classrooms in Lakewood, New Jersey, have been packed with students five days a week since September. Classrooms in Paterson, New Jersey, have been shuttered the whole time.

So what’s behind the drastic difference in how the two school systems approach education in a pandemic?

New Jersey’s largest school districts – including Newark, Jersey City, and Paterson – have often blamed systemic inequities for their decisions to remain all-remote or postpone hybrid learning. But, in the comparison with Lakewood, those differences don’t really exist.

Like the big urban districts, Lakewood serves thousands of mostly lower-income Black and Brown students. Lakewood suffers from overcrowding — federal data show both Lakewood and Paterson have student-teacher ratios hovering around 11 to 1. And that same data show Lakewood actually spends $2, less per pupil, on average, than Paterson. Despite all the disadvantages, Lakewood has had sufficient resources to open classrooms up while Paterson students remain locked out of their school buildings.

“This is a pandemic problem,” said Michael Inzelbuch, Lakewood’s School Board Attorney. “There are two ways to deal with a problem. ‘Yes I can’ or ‘No I can’t.’ We took the approach ‘Yes I can.’”

Most parents in Lakewood seem satisfied with the result. Almost 90 percent of the district’s students have opted for five days in-person instruction each week.

Emilia Cuzco, a school employee with two kids in the district, said she chose in-person instruction for fear students learning in front of a computer at home would suffer dramatic learning loss.

“Those kids are never going to get that back, those years or months that we lost,” Cuzco said.

Like lots of districts, Lakewood implemented a slew of new health protocols to minimize COVID risk. There are mandatory temperature checks before students get on buses and plexiglass on every desk. Over the summer, the district even built five large trailers to serve as extra classroom space to accommodate social distancing. But even with that extra space, Lakewood never followed the CDC’s previous recommendation of 6 feet between students. In some classrooms, even the CDC’s current 3-foot distance recommendation is a challenge.

“We’re doing everything we can that is in our control to have a safe environment and I believe that gave us the confidence to keep the buildings open,” said Laura Winters, the Lakewood Superintendent.

Perhaps the biggest difference in the way Lakewood and Paterson have approached school reopening is in the posture they’ve taken with their respective teachers unions. In Paterson, school leadership has mostly accommodated union demands. In Lakewood, Inzelbuch said he threatened to sue the teachers union long before the school year began.

“We were taking the union to court. We weren’t going to wait for them to take us to court,” he said.

Kimberlee Shaw, President of the Lakewood Education Association, confirmed school leadership took an uncompromising approach to negotiations and dismissed some of her union’s safety concerns outright.

“Their minds were set. They were opening regardless,” Shaw said. “Nothing we said could convince them otherwise.”

Shaw says the result was a risky classroom roll-out that should have been phased in more gradually. Between July 6, , when Lakewood summer school programs re-opened, and March 23, , the union tallied COVID cases among Lakewood students and infections among school staff.

“We’ve had hospitalized staff,” Shaw said. “That, to me, is a problem.”

School administrators in Lakewood say classrooms are among the safest environments and most of the COVID cases among students and staff came from exposure in the surrounding community.

Paradoxically, in Paterson, school officials blame infection rates in the surrounding community for keeping school buildings shuttered.

Last week, Paterson parents learned of yet another delay in the city’s plan to re-open school buildings. May 1 had been the target date for hybrid instruction, but on Wednesday, Superintendent Eileen Shafer announced fully remote learning would continue “until further notice.” She blamed rising community transmission and an increase in school-linked outbreaks across the state.

“At present, the conditions are simply not favorable enough to reopen,” she wrote in a letter to parents. “During the last month, the number of new cases has increased by nearly 50 percent in Paterson and Passaic County.”

According to health department data, the day positivity rate is about 11 percent in both Passaic County, where Paterson is, and Ocean County, where Lakewood is.

Shafer said Paterson Schools would review infection numbers again in early May to determine whether a return to classrooms is possible before the school year ends in June.

In Lakewood, school officials say there is no turning back. Classrooms there will remain open till the end of the school year. Inzelbuch said there’s no reason other districts shouldn’t follow suit and open up five days a week.

“Candidly, it can be done. Lakewood did it. There is nothing special about Lakewood other than our staff who are special and our parents. Anywhere can do it.”

New Jersey Schools Should Be All in Person in Fall, Gov. Murphy Says - NBC10 Philadelphia

(Editor’s Note: Find all of the most important pandemic education news on Educating N.J., a special resource guide created for parents, students and educators.)

Nearly 1, kids, parents and teachers spread out on the basketball courts in the Lakewood High School gymnasium this week, as more than a dozen health professionals administered tests for the coronavirus or the antibodies that fight it.

Last week, construction crews drilled holes for footers to secure eight modular units behind Lakewood Middle School. Eight more are coming in October.

And a report from Michael Inzelbuch, the school district’s outspoken attorney, said nearly all clear plastic dividers that aim to keep students safe had been installed in township’s seven public schools.

Everything must come together before kids return to school Sept. 4 in Lakewood, one of more than 60 public districts in New Jersey currently planning to welcome students in class full-time, at least to start the year.

In a town where just about everything is controversial, the decision to reopen schools is no different. A teacher and an aide already have resigned in protest, and the teachers union continues to fight plans. But the school board, which voted unanimously July 22 to hold in-person classes, has support from many parents who don’t want to leave their kids home alone or see them spend the school year behind a computer.

Similar battles are being waged across the country as people wrestle with how to educate kids during a pandemic that has killed more than , people.

In Lakewood, the stakes are especially high. Here, nearly all students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, and many rely on schools for one or two meals per day.

The district points to success over the summer, when classes were held for about students and there were no reported virus cases. Daniel Regenye, Ocean County’s health officer, said he isn’t aware of any cases stemming from Lakewood’s summer school.

But for teachers union spokeswoman Dawn Hiltner, those classes proved little.

Hiltner said teachers reported high touch areas were visibly dirty in the summer and “that was only a fraction of the students and a fraction of the teachers. What happens when even more people are in the buildings?”

Having kids at school all day, every day during a global pandemic carries the potential for a coronavirus outbreak in a town hit hard this spring, with 2, cases and deaths reported since March. Both figures are the highest in Ocean County, though Lakewood is also the largest town in the county.

In the southern United States, where school began earlier than in New Jersey, hundreds of students and teachers have contracted the virus and some schools that initially reopened have closed, at least temporarily.

Cases of coronavirus in children have increased since late July, going from nearly cases per , children on July 30 to cases on August 20, according to a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association.

With the district’s purchase of plexiglass desk shields and table dividers last month, Hiltner deemed the barriers as “pretty much worthless.” She said the desks are still too close together.

The two Lakewood educators who recently resigned agreed with Hiltner.

“The schools are crowded. The rooms are small. There are very little precautions in place. It is inevitable that not only teachers but also students’ family members will get sick. This is a plan that I cannot get behind,” one of the staff resignation letters, dated Aug. 12, reads.

“Unfortunately due to the current COVID epidemic I am unable to continue my employment here. I do not feel safe exposing my 4 month old daughter to the possibility of contracting this virus,” the second letter, dated Aug. 17, says.

One plan to relieve overcrowding at Lakewood schools is the installation of 16 modular classrooms at Lakewood Middle School. Eight will be ready the first day of school; the others are expected to be functional at the end of October.

Inzelbuch, Lakewood’s school board attorney who has been in the thick of the district’s coronavirus preparation, insists the district has done everything asked by the state and the Ocean County Health Department, both of which signed off on Lakewood’s plans to hold in-person classes.

He said Lakewood opening schools is crucial because many students would be home alone if class were held remotely.

“They go to work, COVID or not, because more important is food,” the board attorney said about the district’s parents, adding that being able to hold classes is better than “sitting at home with no parents.”

“We can’t tell our population to stay home and good luck.”

Alejandra Morales, a community activist and member of Voz Latina, a group that helps the town’s Latinx population, echoed Inzelbuch’s points during a remote school board meeting Aug.

“Our community is mostly immigrants. We don’t qualify for unemployment,” Morales said. “This signifies that mom and dad have to go out to work to be able to pay their bills.”

Morales said the security of children is the community’s main concern. If school were remote, many children would be forced to stay at home alone because their parents have strictly in-person occupations.

At the Board of Education meeting Wednesday evening, Inzelbuch, district superintendent Laura Winters and two board members gathered in a classroom. Other members joined remotely over video chat.

Viewers watching from home saw what school will be like. The board members spoke through their masks and sat behind plexiglass shields, which rose up on three sides of each desk.

Inzelbuch answered questions sent via email prior to the meeting. The attorney said the board received over emails containing a similar message.

“The school district has shown a blatant disregard for both staff and students. Enough is enough. Only when it’s safe,” Inzelbuch read off of his smartphone.

“Let me say this: We follow the law,” he responded, pointing out that the Ocean County Department of Health visited Lakewood earlier in the month and deemed the school setups compliant.

Despite the district meeting regulations, Hiltner said the board is “only doing what’s convenient.”

“It’s going to be very hard to keep the staff healthy,” she said. “They’re treating the staff as if they’re replaceable.”

At the meeting Wednesday, Inzelbuch disputed that, saying, “Our staff have worked harder than any other district I know, and I sue quite a few.”

Regenye, the Ocean County health officer, and the Health Department worked with Lakewood schools on their reopening plan throughout the summer. He said he has been impressed and wouldn’t hesitate to send his two kids, a high schooler and middle schooler who do not attend Lakewood schools, to the district.

“I would have no problem with them attending,” he said.

Have a news tip or a story idea about New Jersey schools? Send it here.

Payton Guion may be reached at [email protected].

Jenny Whidden may be reached at [email protected].


Reopening lakewood nj schools

October 20,

Google Resources:

Tutorial de Google Classroom para Padres (click to view)

Google Classroom For Parents (English)  (Spanish)

Google Classroom Tutorial Video (click to view)

A Parent Guide to Google Classroom (click to view)


Who is eligible: Children 4 years old by December 31,


Children currently attending Lakewood Public Schools Pre-K (LECC, Spruce, or Piner) do not need to register. The student will automatically be enrolled in Kindergarten for the school year.

Who is eligible: Children 5 years old by December 31, , and resides in Lakewood.


Step 1.  Fill Out the Student Registration Survey

Step 2.  A Registration Packet will arrive in the mail

Step 3.  You will receive a call from Central Registration for an appointment


LAKEWOOD TOWNSHIP BOARD OF EDUCATION MEETING NOTICE  In accordance with the Open Public Meetings Act, P.L. c. this is to advise that the Lakewood Board of Education will hold a Meeting on Wednesday, October 20, Executive Session at p.m. and Public Session will open at p.m. The meeting will be live-streamed through the District Website: Recognition of the Public questions can be submitted by emailing to: [email protected], from p.m. to p.m. Comments will also be received at p.m. by dialing ID # or by joining the Board of Education Zoom Meeting. The Zoom Meeting Link will be posted on the District’s website by p.m., on October 20, , for anyone wanting to make a public comment; your video must be turned on. If you do not have video, you must call the audio phone line.

The agenda known at this time includes the following: Executive Session: Litigation, Matters of Personnel, & Negotiations Any and all matters including but not limited to: Personnel, Award of Contracts, and Payment of Bills. Formal action will be taken.


If you have any questions in regard to this notice, please contact the Business Office during regular business hours from a.m. to p.m. by calling () Ext. or by emailing to [email protected] Kevin Campbell, CPA, PSA, SBA, QPA Assistant Business Administrator/Board Secretary

Board Agenda (click to view)

School bus with 15 on board crashes into car in Lakewood, NJ

Lakewood schools are set to reopen, teachers say buildings are in 'deplorable' condition

LAKEWOOD - The Lakewood school district's ambitious and controversial school reopening plan will finally be put to the test today, when 80% of the students go back to school five months after schools shutdown due to COVID

There already was a setback, less than 48 hours before classes were to begin for an estimated 6, public schools students. 

Late Wednesday, the district announced that the township middle school would not reopen today as planned because eight modular classroom units the district planned to deploy to ease crowding won't be ready. 

Moreover, on Thursday, the member Lakewood Education Association complained in a letter that district buildings were in "deplorable" condition and personal protection equipment given to teachers was "wildly inadequate."

Lakewood Middle School:Overcrowding will test district's reopening plan

All other district campuses will restart today as planned. Students at Lakewood Middle School will now return Tuesday. 

Lakewood is among 63 New Jersey districts, and the only one in Ocean County, planning to reopen with full in-person instruction. The vast majority of  New Jersey school districts will start the school year with all-virtual instruction or in hybrid mode — a mix of both in-person and remote learning.

Many of those opting for full in-person instruction are smaller elementary school districts.

Township officials said a contractor couldn't finish installing required fire alarms in the modular classrooms.  

Mayor Raymond Coles said that school district officials called him late Wednesday night to ask if the township could conduct the required inspections this weekend to have the school open up on Tuesday.

"The township inspections department will be there on Sunday," he said. "All other inspections will be done Friday (today) and the middle school should be able to open it on time by Tuesday."

The mayor said that he has mixed feelings about the reopening of schools, but understands that many parents need their children back in their classrooms in order to work.

"For many residents who depend on a joint income to live, losing one income because they have to be with their children at home would be devastating," he said. "There's no easy black and white answer to this situation. I just pray we're able to go through this until a vaccine comes out."

The mayor said that he's asked the public works department to keep its trucks off the streets until after 10 a.m. and the police department to have extra patrols and cross guards to make the return to school a smooth one students. 

How smooth today's reopening would be was an open question Thursday. Dozens of confused parents contacted the Asbury Park Press on the eve of the first day of school looking for answers they said the district had not provided.

The majority of Lakewood public school parents will send their children back to school to test an ambitious and controversial COVID plan to reopen all district campuses in the middle of the pandemic.

"I have been calling the district but no one is answering me," said Sandra Molina, whose two children attend Oak Street School. "I got their bus passes, but no information on who's going to be their teacher, what classroom they will be in. We're being left in the dark."

The Press sent a list of the parents' questions to Schools Superintendent Laura S. Winters and to the Lakewood Board of Education attorney Michael Inzelbuch, who is also the district spokesman.

Parents requested information about their children's teachers and assigned classrooms; whether students would receive school supplies; and if they had to bring a clear backpack to school as in years prior.

Other parents said that they had signed up for remote learning but never got confirmation of their children's registration. They also asked how they could switch from in-person education to remote learning or vice versa.

Winters did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

The attorney referred to a video recorded Wednesday night by Voz Latina activist Alejandra Morales in which she says that the middle school would not open and that the district would provide more COVID testing at a school location.

Inzelbuch said all parents had received information about the start of the new school year. Thursday afternoon, less than 24 hours before schools reopen, the district sent out a page Student handbook in English and Spanish to parents via the school district messaging application.

Inzelbuch sent an email with some information about how schools will operate starting today. His email said that start times for each school remain the same as in previous years.

Lakewood Middle School prepares for reopening after a months-long shutdown caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic. The Lakewood Public School District has spent more than $, in gear and preparations to welcome back more than 1, students Sept. 4.

The reopening will be unlike any other in Lakewood.

The district will provide disposable masks as children board school buses. Those who walk to school will be provided masks upon their arrival, the email said. Also, cloth masks and shields will be provided when students enter classrooms.

All students will receive free or reduced breakfast and lunch, the district said.

The great majority of parents will send their children back to school, trusting a district that has spent millions of dollars preparing the schools to reopen.

Teachers continued to oppose the page reopening plan, charging that it doesn't do enough to keep children, teachers and staff safe.

Amid rumors of a possible strike, Lakewood public school teachers and staff reported for their first day of work Tuesday wearing black in protest of the school district's plan. Teachers have pressed for a hybrid plan like those adopted in so many other districts.

While the Lakewood Education Association wouldn't comment on whether teachers and staff would return to work today, union president Kimberlee Shaw sent a letter to the Board of Education attorney saying: "Since the start of the school year on Sept. 1, the LEA's worst fears have quickly become a reality."

Shaw said that for the past two days, union members have documented "violation after violation" of the district's plan and also said that school buildings are in a "deplorable" condition.

Lakewood Education Association president Kimberlee Shaw wrote a letter to the district saying that union members have documented violations to the reopening plan and that the district is placing staff, students and the community in "immediate harm."

In her missive, the union president said that schools have not been properly cleaned, that the personal protective gear given out to staff is "wildly inadequate" and that air conditioning in multiple schools has broken down already.

"These are just a few clear examples of the conditions in which you are forcing our members to work and the students to learn full time at full capacity in very tight quarters," Shaw wrote.

And she closed: "Now is the time to correct your egregious decision and move forward with a full day hybrid model for all public school buildings in the District. If you fail to heed this warning and correct your decision, the sickness and deaths of employees, students, and community will lay at your feet."

Gustavo Martínez Contreras covers Lakewood. Contact him at [email protected] or at


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