State Sen. M Teresa Ruiz Bills Seek To Make Remote Learning Easier For Teachers, Parents

With many students kicking off a new school year virtually, State Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz (D-29) introduced a pair of bills aimed at making remote learning easier for teachers and parents.

After schools were shut down in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, districts across New Jersey adopted remote learning plans to finish out the school year, which presented various challenges for working parents.

For the start of the 2020-21 academic year, the majority of schools are using a blended model, consisting of virtual and in-person instruction.

Ease Burden

“The closure of schools and shift to virtual instruction has been particularly hard on parents unable to work remotely, which now encompasses many of our educators as well,” Ruiz said in a statement. “By setting up state-sponsored learning pods, and offering childcare assistance for our essential school employees, we can ease the burden on the caretakers in our state and provide greater continuity for our young learners while, most importantly, maintaining a safe environment for all.”

Since April, Ruiz, the Senate Education Chair, has been working with a special task force to provide guidance and insight to meet immediate and future challenges for teachers, schools, students and parents, as well as explore ways to seamlessly transition to remote learning during future emergencies.

Emergency Child Care Assistance Program

The first bill, S-2898, would establish an “Emergency Child Care Assistance Program” for school staff and administrators.

The program is modeled after a similar offering administered by the Department of Human Services for essential workers at the height of the pandemic last spring.

It would support schools by providing certain rates of financial assistance for the staff’s child care needs, according to the bill.

Remote Instruction

The second bill requires the state Department of Education to create a remote instruction facility program that districts could opt into and would provide a supervised place for students to learn virtually.

Each location would provide connected devices for students and the state would reimburse districts for the cost to run remote instruction facilities, according to the bill.

Under the proposal, if a district lacked sufficient space to accommodate all students requesting to attend, preference would be given to students on free or reduced lunch and those in the care of essential school employees, including teachers, administrators and staff.

Daily Data

As of Sept. 10, the cumulative number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 194,990 with 507 new cases and five new deaths, bringing that total to 14,225. The state probable death count increased to 1,789, bringing the overall total to 16,014.

State officials noted 21 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.  

Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 1,892, followed by Bergen at 1,797, Hudson with 1,352, Passaic at 1,105, Morris at 686, Sussex at 161 and Warren with 158.

In regards to probable deaths, Bergen has 243, Essex has 229, Hudson has 160, Morris at 145, Passaic at 143, Sussex has 37 and Warren has 13.

State Testing 

The daily rate of infections from those tested as of Sept. 5 was 2.0%. The state is no longer using serology tests as health officials explained those results show a past presence of the disease as well as a current one. 

As for the rate of transmission, it decreased to 1.09 from the previous day’s 1.10. Officials have continually cited transmission rate and positivity rate as health data they rely on to track how the coronavirus is being contained in New Jersey, guiding them in determining when restrictions have to be tightened or lifted.

Officials reported 435 patients are hospitalized. The north tier had 227 patients hospitalized, the central 83 and the south 125.

Of those hospitalized, 62 are in intensive care units and 26 on ventilators, while 35 patients were discharged.

Bergen Tops County Count

Bergen has the most cumulative cases in the state with 21,894, followed by Essex at 20,591, Hudson at 20,329, Middlesex at 18,703, Passaic at 18,579, Union at 17,267, Ocean at 11,598, Monmouth at 11,043, Camden at 9,413, Mercer at 8,445, Morris at 7,603, Burlington at 6,641, Somerset at 5,508, Atlantic at 3,849, Gloucester at 3,945, Cumberland at 3,663, Sussex at 1,416, Warren at 1,412, Hunterdon at 1,245, Salem at 1,003 and Cape May at 949.

Another 308 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.

Demographic Breakdown

The racial breakdown of the record deaths was 54% White, 20% Hispanic, 18% Black, 6% Asian and 2% another race. Murphy has noted the rates in the black and Hispanic communities are running about 50% more than their population in the state. 

In regards to the underlying disease of those who have passed, 56% had cardiovascular disease, 45% diabetes, 31% other chronic diseases, 18% neurological conditions, 17% lung diseases, 15% chronic renal disease, 10% cancer and 14% other. Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli has stated most cases have multiple underlying conditions which would push the percentage of 100%.

A census of ages for confirmed deaths shows 48% of deaths are of those 80 year old and up, 31% in the range of 65-80, 16% between 50-65 and 5% under the age of 49. 

Long-term Care Facilities

Health officials noted 153 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 8,177 of the cases, broken down between 5,073 residents and 3,104 staff. 

Cumulatively, 679 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 24,930 residents and 13,409 staff, for a total of 38,339 cases. 

The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,124 on Sept. 10. The facilities are reporting to the state 6,747 residents deaths and 121 staff deaths.

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