New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy stated on Thursday that the state would be inviting up to 5,000 volunteers to help with the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused a rise in cases of learning loss among other issues.
He claimed they would be implemented in schools to improve student’s mental health, school performance, and attendance. Volunteer tutors, mentors, and student success coaches will be sought out, screened, trained, and supported through the New Jersey Partnership for Student Success (NJPSS).
A subset of the volunteers will aid in coordinating post-secondary plans and social services for the students. Phil Murphy claims that the project will allow more people in the community to help with students’ academic, social, and emotional needs.
As part of this initiative, a website has been created to facilitate communication between districts, schools, organizations, and volunteers for a $10 million high-impact tutoring program, a $2 million program to train people to teach literacy to young students, and a $3 million program for older elementary school students.
NJPSS “will leverage the support of our community to assist our children to thrive,” Angelica Allen-McMillan, interim commissioner of the state Department of Education, said. The initiative supplements the National Partnership for Student Success’s efforts to recruit 250,000 additional tutors and mentors around the country, which was launched as a coalition on July 5.
The State of New Jersey is also trying to get federal funding to help students out by employing volunteer centers and non-profit agencies to find and train people to help out in classrooms throughout the school day, after school, and during the summer.
According to the New Jersey School Boards Association, volunteers working with students will require extensive training. According to a piece published in the magazine’s upcoming Fall 2019 issue,
volunteers are required to undergo training on topics including “harassment, intimidation, and bullying; reporting suspected incidents involving missing, abused, or neglected children; and reporting that a student has attempted or completed suicide.”
Background checks of the applicant’s criminal history may also be necessary. The volunteers “are obliged to be supervised by staff at all times and are not authorized to manage the students freely,” the story stated.
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Superintendent of Schools for Union Township Schools Scott Taylor has stated that districts will be active in student safety. There would be checks and balances in place since “ultimately the school district will be accountable for certifying the background check was successfully performed without any red flags,” he said.
The initiative was praised by Garden State Coalition of Schools president Betsy Ginsburg, whose organization includes more than a hundred school districts. She praised the administration for its efforts to recruit volunteers to support teachers as they deal with the academic and social/emotional fallout of the COVID pandemic. “Please elaborate on the anticipated logistics that will make this idea a reality,” I said.