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NTU Update - July 3, 2020

School Reopening and COVID FAQ’s Video

Over on Youtube, President John Abeigon and Director of Research Mike Maillaro put together a twenty question FAQ from the surveys we received from our members discussing School Reopening and Covid-19.  As more information comes out from the state and district, we will likely be adding more videos.  This is our first attempt at video content.  Let us know how we did!

One of the biggest questions we hear is "Why are we reopening schools at all?"

Schools are the definition of a necessary service.  Our students face innumerable challenges on the best of days, and the Newark schools and NTU members are often the difference between hope and despair, success and failure, life and death for our students.  

It is important to go into this conversation by making it very clear that no one is taking this lightly.   Not the state, not the district, certainly not the NTU.  We are in the schools and our  families are in the schools as both staff and students.  We are not going to let a single student or staff member be put in a position where they are exposed to unnecessary risk.  There is no perfect solution out there, but we need to be in the best position to educate and protect our students.

The NTU was actively involved in the District Reopening Taskforce.  NJ-AFT President Donna Chiara was on the statewide reopening committee.  

First of all, no one is talking about a full scale return to normal.  Newark will likely be utilizing a hybrid model in September that allows for flexibility when it comes to protecting our most vulnerable staff and students.   The district will continue expanding staff and student access to distance learning.  For those students and staff in the building, strict social distancing and sanitizing procedures will be in place to ensure the safety of the students and staff at all times.  

Only staff and students will be allowed in the building, and a proven screening process (which includes temperature and symptom checks, and ensuring everyone has a mask) will be put in place to ensure no one enters the building who may have any symptoms.  It is important to remember that there were hundreds of daycare centers around the state that remained open and following these procedures not a single outbreak occurred.  

The NTU is also working closely with the district in a state-approved pilot program for summer school to figure out where any issues may come up to ensure we are ready for September.  This will put us in a position to make adjustments or pull the plug if this won't work.  The state has already said that one of the most important provisions of any reopening plan is the ability to immediately shift back to 100% distance learning if necessary.  The staff and students involved in this pilot eagerly volunteered to do this work, understanding how important it was. 

Over the next few weeks, we will continue working with our members and the district to ensure everyone's reasonable concerns are addressed.  

Does wearing a mask pose any health risks?

We saw the following information from the Associated Press this week:

Does wearing a mask pose any health risks?

No, not for most people. Babies and toddlers should not wear masks because they could suffocate. The same goes for anyone who has trouble removing a mask without help.

Others can wear masks without risking their health, according to experts, despite false rumors to the contrary.

In areas where COVID-19 is spreading, health experts agree that wearing masks or other face coverings in public helps reduce the risk of spreading the virus when people can’t socially distance by staying 6 feet apart.

The coronavirus mainly spreads through droplets that are emitted when people talk, laugh, sing, cough and sneeze. Masks lower the likelihood of those droplets reaching other people. Even if you don’t have symptoms, you could be carrying the virus and could spread it.

When it’s humid outside, it could feel like it’s harder to breathe if you’re not used to wearing a mask, said Benjamin Neuman, a professor of biology at Texas A&M University-Texarkana. But he said masks don’t meaningfully decrease oxygen in the body.

“The body is quite good at adjusting to keep oxygen levels where they need to be,” he said.

There’s also no evidence that the use of masks causes fungal or bacterial infections, according to Davidson Hamer, an infectious disease expert at Boston University. Disposable face masks are meant to be used once, then thrown in the garbage. With cloth masks, it’s a good idea to wash them regularly.

Wearing a mask may be uncomfortable, but health officials say you should resist any urge to touch your face. That could bring germs from your hands into your nose, mouth or eyes.

Benefits Update

The State Senate and Assembly have come to an agreement on a Chapter 78 relief bill.  We actually first sent this out to the members back in March after a meeting with the state to discuss the proposed bill.  The bill was delayed because of COVID-19, but it has now been passed. 

The bill proposes the creation of new insurance plans which would be available to ALL education employees in the state.  This includes districts that already have Chapter 78 relief and staff in districts that are not currently part of the School Employees Health Benefits Plan like Newark.  Staff who CHOOSE to go on to those plans would have their benefits contribution set as a percentage of their salary, NOT paying a portion of the benefits themselves.  On average, this will save employees around $2000-4000 a year. All new hires will be automatically placed on these plans, and all retirees will be moved to these plans as well.  

As a retiree (or future retiree) does this mean I will have to pay for my benefits now?

Chapter 78 created tiers for retirees based on years of service and when they were eligible for retirement.  These tiers are not changing. If you are (or will be) on a tier that does not require any payment for your benefits, you would continue to not pay for your benefits.  If your tier does require payment for benefits, that payment would fall under the Chapter 78 Relief guidelines, so you would be paying less than you would have previously.

As an active employee, do I have to move to these new plans?

The state will be reducing the number of plans available.  For districts in the School Employee Benefits Plan, staff would still  be able to use NJ Direct 10 or have the option to move to the new plans.  For districts who are not in the School Employee Benefits Plan (including Newark), they would be required by the law to create plans equivalent to these new plans.

If you stay on an existing plan, you would still be under Chapter 78 or whatever is locally negotiated to replace Chapter 78.   Staff who choose to go on to these new plans would have their benefits contribution set as a percentage of their salary, NOT paying a portion of the benefits themselves. 

According to NBOE calculator, currently a Newark teacher making $100,000 is paying $9,696.20 for their family plan (and that is without the prescription which bumps that number up to $11,772.40).  Following the new model, a Newark teacher making $100,000 would be paying: $7,800 for their family plan (and that includes prescription).

What are the components of the plans?

Starting in September 2020, the details of the newly-developed plan are as follows:

- In network 

·  $10/$15 copays in network (general/specialist) 

·  No deductible.  

·  Caps of $500/$1000 for any "co-insurance" costs per year (single/family)

·  $125 for emergency room, waived if admitted.   

·  Prescriptions are $5/$10 generic/brand with caps of $1600 and $3200 (single/ family).  

Out of network has a 30% co-pay with annual caps of $2000/$5000 (single/family).  

For this plan, a staff member making less than $40,000 would pay 1.9% of their salary for single coverage, 3.3% for family coverage.  A staff member making more than $100,000 would pay 3.6% of their salary for single coverage, or 7.2% for family coverage.  If the Chapter 78 cost would be cheaper, that is what they would pay.

Garden State Plan

In the 2021-2022 school year, there would be a "Garden State" plan made available which would only cover doctors in the state of New Jersey.  The details of this plan are still being developed, but the contribution percentages would be half of what we listed above.  As mentioned above, for districts who are not in the School Employee Benefits Plan (including Newark), they would be required by the law to create plans equivalent to the Garden State Plan for the 2021-2022 school year.

Distance Educational Program Workshops (corrected email address)

Welcome to the NTU’s Distance Educational Program workshops. My name is Silvia Pereira, and I have been working with Newark Public Schools for the past 15 years. I have a Master’s in Instruction and Curriculum with a Bilingual Bicultural option. I am also ESL certified. Beginning the week of July 6th, through the NTU I will be offering online workshops on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m on Distance Educational Programs. If you are unable to join me during our live workshops, then please join the Distance Educational Program Google Classroom (class code: lq4jzft) where I will be posting videos and resources to help guide you with the various platforms. 

I’m so happy to be working with each and every one of you as we navigate this journey of Distance Learning. Over the next couple of weeks we will work together to build your confidence and ease of using these various platforms that will aid you not only in the classroom but virtually as well.

The Distance Educational Program workshops will offer you a variety of workshops on various learning platforms such as, WebEx, Google Classroom, Google Docs, Google Drive and more. Each workshop will be structured to guide you through the process of learning each of these platforms.

Please fill out the following survey to help us tailor the workshops for your needs and interests.

Meeting link:

Meeting number: 120 577 6290

Password: training2020

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to me @