Parents in Lakewood, New Jersey were fuming this week when they were forced to wait in long lines to secure food, free Chromebooks, and other instructional materials during the coronavirus shutdown.
District officials attempted unsuccessfully to keep people separated as they stood in two different lines outside the board of education building, one for Chromebooks and one for school books, and many of the roughly 100 parents who showed up Wednesday were not happy about the situation, the Asbury Park Press reports.
“They had more than enough time to prepare for this, and yet they didn’t take enough precautions to prevent this scenario,” said Krysten Summey, who was picking up books for her fourth and first graders. “Now we’re standing next to each other, shoulder to shoulder. This is a health hazard.”
Public health officials are encouraging social distancing – maintaining at least six feet from others and no gatherings of more than 50 people – to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Lakewood schools and most others canceled in-person classes based on those suggestions, but parents contend the 30-minute wait in the crowded line undermines the response.
“We weren’t supposed to be standing here. The governor said there couldn’t be more than 50 people gathered at one place, and look at us. The board is failing,” Isidra Pérez, a mother of three, told the Press in Spanish. “This was chaos yesterday, and today we’re still seeing they’re not ready to handle this.”
District spokesman Michael Inzelbuch and director of school counseling, Oscar Orellana, were on the scene to help the staff enforce the social distancing guidelines, though parents contend it wasn’t enough.
The Press reports:
Inzelbuch said more than 4,000 instructional packages have been provided to students and families from preschool through high school since Friday. He also said that there were 4,100 participants in Google classrooms Wednesday. In addition, more than 1,000 students and teachers are utilizing daily uploaded videos.
The district is also delivering meals to students and working with local internet providers to offer hotspots to students throughout the shutdown. About 40 percent of the district’s students do not have a computer at home, while nearly all qualify for the federal free- and reduced-price lunch program.
Community leaders are urging local businesses to open WiFi access for students to help them download assignments and complete schoolwork during the closure, the Press reports.
“I think it (Lakewood’s public school district) is different than anywhere in Ocean or Monmouth County,” Inzelbuch said. “That’s a unique challenge we’ve met head-on.”
Parents, meanwhile, complain some of the district’s efforts are falling short, with meals not delivered on time and inadequate internet access through the free hotspots.
Felicitas Garcia told the Press she used up all the data on her free hotspot to help her oldest son with homework, leaving her other two kids without internet to complete their work.
“I ran out of internet quickly,” García told the Press in Spanish. “I’m here now hoping they can help us connect to the internet because my children need it to do their homework and keep up with their classes.”