We would like to share with the Verona community a letter that we recently sent to the members of the Verona Board of Education. It reads as follows:
We are writing to you today as concerned board members of Verona’s Special Education Parent Advisory Committee, C.H.I.L.D, which stands for, Children Having Individual Learning Differences.
Over the course of the 2020-2021 school year, the Board followed the New Jersey Department of Education mandates, and conducted board meetings via Zoom. Now that providing this service is no longer mandated, the Board has decided to hold in-person meetings only. We strongly implore you to reconsider your decision for the following important reasons:
The Zoom option allowed for increased participation and engagement, especially among parents in the C.H.I.L.D. community, who, due to their children’s unique needs, often face a variety of barriers that make attendance at evening meetings difficult.
Additionally, Zoom provided accessibility for our disabled community members, including those with physical, sensory, intellectual, or psychosocial impairments. It also allowed those who are immunocompromised, or who have family members who are immunocompromised, to attend and participate in the meetings safely during this continuing pandemic. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, “Reasonable accommodation includes adjustments to assure that an individual with a disability has rights and privileges equal to those of individuals without disabilities.”
Cedar Grove, Montclair, Livingston and several other nearby towns all offer the Zoom option for their BOE meetings. Our Town Council has also been conducting its meetings using the remote option. The New Jersey County School Boards Association even allows its members to attend meetings both in-person and virtually. If you, as Verona board members, now have this option for county meetings, our community members deserve the same.
The Board has been asked why the Zoom/hybrid meetings cannot continue, as they have allowed for greater access for everyone in the community. To date, the only explanation has been, because that is what the Board has decided.
As educator George Dei said, “Inclusion is not bringing people into what already exists, it is making a new space, a better space for everyone.” The Covid pandemic has been difficult for us all, but especially the disabled community. One of the bright spots has been greater accessibility for public meetings because of the utilization of technology. To take away this accessibility now, would punish those who, because of who they are, not choices they have made, are unable to attend the in-person meetings.
For the many reasons we’ve highlighted, we ask that the remote option be immediately reinstated. This is your chance to make a better space for everyone.
C.H.I.L.D. Board Members