The Perth Amboy School District is submitting an amended plan to the State to start the school year all remote until at least Nov. 18th. The change from the hybrid plan they had first submitted was announced after Gov. Murphy said that NJ schools could choose the all remote option if they could not safely open. In a letter to the Perth Amboy community dated Aug 13th, Perth Amboy School Superintendent David Roman said “The health and well-being of students, staff and parents is of the utmost importance.” Other school districts, like Jersey City and Bayonne, had already voted to go all remote for the start of the school year. Parents and teachers had begun protesting on Facebook after the Perth Amboy School District had said they were going with a hybrid rotating schedule, calling the plan horrible.
Perth Amboy parents and teachers were very happy with the change of plan, as seen in updates all over Facebook. However thoughts about how working families will be able to manage child care and work remain. Concerns were also raised about the impact of remote learning on children with special needs. And, how will the digital divide in Perth Amboy be addressed? Many families only have internet access through their phones. When Perth Amboy children have to use a phone as a hotspot for internet access and their parent works, access is limited. Also, the shutdown has had a serious impact on families finances and people are struggling to put food on the table. Services like access to the internet may be the first thing to go in a Perth Amboy household. Internet is an essential service during the pandemic and we need to make sure every student is connected.
How many hot spots Perth Amboy Schools intend to distribute is unknown. Bridging the digital divide may mean exploring options like a municipal wireless network which could help address the economic crisis of the shutdown and spur economic development. “Its been done in business districts in New Jersey,” Bienvenido Torres, Perth Amboy City Council Candidate, said. We have to begin thinking about the future, and how our community needs access to the internet for emergencies, for education, for community services, and to stimulate economic development.”