They Also Turn to Facebook Foundation for Emergency Funding
Parents of students displaced from the Wilson Avenue School in Newark’s Ironbound section are demanding that the NJ Department of Education (DOE), NJ Schools Development Authority (SDA), and the Newark Public Schools (NPS) begin emergency repairs to reopen the school as quickly as possible. They are also insisting that NPS take action to bring the over 700 Wilson elementary students back to their neighborhood in temporary facilities to minimize the loss of instructional time caused by the district’s decision to bus the students to the cross-town Quitman School and to St. Anthony’s school in Belleville.
Just before the start of the school year, NPS ordered the Wilson Avenue School closed for the second time in eighteen months, citing a health hazard created by extensive mold in the building. The closure displaced 735 students in grades 1-8.
The demands are spelled out in a letter dated September 20 and sent by the Wilson Avenue Parents Action Committee to NPS State Superintendent Cami Anderson and Acting Commissioner Christopher Cerf.
“Busing our children to other schools well outside our neighborhood has meant less class time and less learning. It has also been an inconvenience and a worry,” said Elba Mattos, a member of the Parent Committee. “Our children need to return immediately to their existing neighborhood school so they can get the benefit of a full day of instructional time and be safe.”
With regard to busing, Ms. Mattos explained that neighborhood children have sometimes been left at the other schools until late in the afternoon, supervision of the children at those schools after hours has not been adequate, and parents have been inconvenienced and anxious.
Education Law Center (ELC) is working with the Wilson Avenue parents to ensure the State and NPS promptly undertake and complete emergency repairs to the school and has notified the State and NPS of their legal responsibilities to perform emergency repairs to the school. Under the Abbott court rulings and state statute, the SDA is legally obligated to immediately assess the condition of the building and undertake and complete necessary repairs to reopen the school as quickly as possible.
Faced with an intolerable situation and serious disruption to their children’s education, and frustrated with the lack of action by the SDA, DOE and NPS, the Parent Committee has also turned to the Foundation for Newark’s Future (FNF) for emergency funding. In a letter to Gregory Taylor, FNF President and CEO, the Parents Committee has requested the opportunity to submit a proposal for funding to address the hazardous conditions that caused the closing of Wilson and to facilitate the displaced students’ return to temporary facilities in the Ironbound.
The FNF was established with a $100 million donation from Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook. FNF recently announced several million dollars in grants to establish new schools and provide extended learning time in some NPS schools.
“We are desperate to solve this problem,” said Idelvani Goncalves, also a member of the Wilson Avenue School Parent Action Committee. “Our request fits well within the Foundation’s mission of making sure all Newark public school students have the best chance to learn and excel.”
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