Push for virtual school option in NJ gains steam as delta spreads


BRIDGEWATER, NJ – A push to have a virtual school option in New Jersey is gaining momentum as positive cases of the coronavirus associated with the Delta variant increase.

“There has been new momentum and the petition is growing,” said Karen Strauss, mother of Bridgewater, who is one of four local Moms who formed New Jersey Parents for Virtual Choice. “We had almost 200 or 300 petitioners yesterday.”

Strauss launched a petition in late May urging Governor Phil Murphy to continue to allow a virtual option at school. At the time, the petition had nearly 200 signatures. As of Friday, the petition had more than 3,000 signatures. Read more: NJ Moms start petition, want virtual choice for school

The increase in signatures can be attributed to the delta variant which accounts for 80% of cases sequenced in New Jersey during the four-week period that ended Tuesday, according to the CDC.

“Parents are really concerned about getting their kids back to school now,” Strauss said.

On Friday, Murphy announced that all students, educators, staff and visitors to New Jersey will once again wear face masks in school buildings – regardless of immunization status – when the new school year begins in September. Read more: NJ Kindergarten to Grade 12 students must wear masks this fall, says Governor Murphy

However, Murphy hasn’t changed his stance on offering full-time in-person tuition for students in the fall. No virtual options are currently available.

“We remain committed to recognizing that our children learn best in a classroom that is appropriate for their education,” said Murphy.

Strauss says Murphy not allowing a virtual option is only political.

“A big part of Murphy’s decision is to get re-elected and we have to do what’s best for our children and our family,” Strauss said.

She stressed that the petition only calls for an option for parents who may want or need it – not to take away from students who wish to return in person.

“It’s about having a choice. If you feel comfortable or need to send your kids in person, do it, but we also need to have a virtual option,” Strauss said.

The New Jersey Parents for Virtual Choice hosted a virtual question-and-answer session to educate parents about their mission. Another virtual Q&A is scheduled for Tuesday or Wednesday.

“We want people to have the knowledge and the choice because that’s what’s right. We’re doing what’s best for these kids. And we think of each other,” Strauss said. “It’s all about having a choice and respecting each other.”

To sign the petition, click here. To learn more about New Jersey Parents for Virtual Choice or the upcoming Q&A session, visit njparentsforvirtual.wixsite.com or facebook.com/NJPFVC.

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Perry A. Thomasson