U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona was joined by Gov. Phil Murphy and Rep. Josh Gottheimer in visiting Bergenfield High School on June 2 to discuss the importance of in-person instruction.
Although the coronavirus pandemic upended the traditional school structure, public schools serving over 95% of New Jersey’s 1.4 million students are now either learning in-person or on a full-time hybrid model.
Bergenfield High School was singled out as an example of a school and community that worked to ensure a safe reopening.
“We know that in-person learning is crucial to the academic success and social well-being of our students,” said Murphy. “I am pleased to say that almost all of New Jersey’s students are now back in their classrooms. Bergenfield High School is a shining example of a school community that worked tirelessly to safely reopen its doors to students for five days per week, in-person learning.”
A Focus on Local Efforts
Although he represented the federal government on the trip, Dr. Cardona noted it was local leaders who ensured the safe reopening of Bergenfield High School. He credited Gov. Murphy, Principal Jim Fasano, Superintendent Dr. Christopher Tully, and Acting Education Commissioner Dr. Angelica Allen-McMillian.
“Here at this school and in this state, it is clear that children come first,” he said. “Students belong in school and that’s what we saw today.”
Dr. Allen-McMillian noted the hard work undertaken by school leaders across the state in their efforts to reopen safely.
“This effort was a partnership at the federal, state and local levels. Bergenfield High School is emblematic of the effort among all the educators, school administrators, and support staff throughout New Jersey to provide students with safe, in-person instruction,” she said.
Bergenfield Leaders Highlight Partnerships
Dr. Tully said the visit was evidence of the “authentic relationships” forged during the pandemic, tying multiple stakeholders together as they navigated the pandemic era.
“On behalf of the Bergenfield Board of Education, I would like to thank the entire Bergenfield Learning Community for their tireless cooperation, support, and dedication when striving to safely provide in-person learning for our students five days per week,” stated Tully.
“Our extraordinary visit today should serve as congratulations and confirmation that when stakeholders on all levels fully cooperate, we can accomplish even the most challenging goals,” he said.
Principal Fasano celebrated the occasion, calling it an honor to meet with the state and federal leaders.
Return in 2021-2022
“They recognized the hard work and dedication of all of the stakeholders in our learning community in getting students back into the building safely and comfortably. It was a real team effort, and we are all grateful for the clear guidelines in the roadmap back to opening schools safely,” he said.
Murphy has pushed for students and teachers to return to the classroom this Spring, culminating in the announcement that the 2021-2022 academic year will not offer an opt out to parents to have their children go to school remotely.
“With our health metrics trending decisively in the right direction, the significant progress we have made in our vaccination effort, we are in a position to get our students back into the classroom full-time come Fall,” Murphy said the day of the announcement. “We know that we can get back to fully in-person safely with the right protocols in place, and that is what we should all be planning to do.”