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EPS Welcomes Back Students to In-Person Learning - 4-20-21

Elizabeth, N.J., April 20, 2021 – Elizabeth Public Schools officially opened its doors on April 19 to in-person learning for students in prekindergarten through third grade in its efforts to reopen schools for all students.

A strong and resilient Elizabeth community celebrated the milestone occasion as City of Elizabeth Mayor J. Christian Bollwage joined Elizabeth Board of Education members and members of the district’s central administration in welcoming back students as they entered their respective schools.

“Watching our students walking back into their schools is a moment that all of us who were here to witness it are going to remember for a very long time,” said Elizabeth Public Schools Superintendent Olga Hugelmeyer. “For over a year, the pandemic has placed a tremendous challenge on our educators, students, and families to continue teaching and learning. It has taken the collective strength of our entire community to pull through these difficult times and it so encouraging to get to this moment and move that much closer to the light at the end of the tunnel. Everyone should feel a great sense of pride for all they have done to help us get to where we are today.”

The reopening was the first time most students attended school in-person since March 16, 2020, when Elizabeth Public Schools closed as the State of New Jersey issued stay at home orders at the onset of the pandemic. For the district’s youngest students who entered preschool in September, the return to in-person instruction served as a welcome to school.

Principals, teachers, and families all rejoiced as students took their long-anticipated walk through the doors of their schools toward their classrooms. The schools and classrooms were all in pristine condition thanks to the outstanding work of the district’s support staff who have been working tirelessly throughout the pandemic to keep all schools and administrative offices clean while meeting the extensive protocols of federal and state health officials. Their work has been invaluable in creating the safest possible classroom environments for students to return to their classrooms.

The increased availability of vaccinations during the past several weeks and the prioritizing of educators to receive their shots also helped Elizabeth Public Schools in its advancement toward reopening for in-person instruction, beginning on March 22 when the district welcomed back students of its autism program.

Elizabeth City Hall gave its support to the district and its teachers in the reopening and vaccination efforts, as Mayor Bollwage worked with Trinitas Regional Medical Center to help secure vaccinations for any teacher who wanted to receive the shots.

He enjoyed greeting students, administrators, and teachers at several district schools and commended their collective efforts to maintain safe learning environments.

“I have toured seven schools in the last two days, and I am extremely impressed with the effort put forth by the teachers, students and staff,” said Mayor Bollwage. “The following of social distance protocols, while getting an in-house education is important and I wish the school community much health & success in completing the year.”

Elizabeth Public Schools, in its efforts to reopen, has regularly consulted with local health officials in following federal and state guidelines pertaining to the safe operation of schools as the pandemic persists. The district will continue to monitor various metrics and the guidance of government and health officials as it brings students back to in-person instruction while maintaining its commitment to the safety and wellbeing of both our students and staff.

After more than a year of remote learning and community hardships experienced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students returning to their schools to learn and see one another again was a very welcome sight.

“In January, when I was selected to serve as President of the Board, I had stated that our greatest priority as a Board and as a school district is returning all of our children to school and their classrooms safely,” said Elizabeth Board of Education President Jerry Jacobs. “Today is an important day in reaching that goal and I have so much gratitude for everyone in our community who helped make it possible. This pandemic has affected our children beyond measure and it is so important to do everything we can to bring some level of normalcy back to their lives. It is such a wonderful feeling to have reopened our classrooms to students in grades PK-3 to get them one step closer. I look forward to welcoming back more of our students and families in the weeks ahead.”