By Tom Wiedmann at Tap into Newark

NEWARK, NJ — The Newark City Council recently reactivated an Education Oversight Committee, aiming to engage more residents and local officials in discussing matters currently impacting city schools.

The reactivation of the committee comes as Newark’s public schools undertake efforts to address the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos Jr., who will chair the committee, said he wanted to reactivate the committee to spur more discussion and dialogue between the city, community, and school leaders after a number of residents and council members raised various concerns regarding Newark schools.

The committee will consist of Ramos and two other members who are yet to be decided, with City Council President Luis Quintana available to sit in on committee meetings.

“It becomes an opportunity for the council and, more importantly, for the residents to get a sense of what’s happening with our schools,” Ramos told TAPinto Newark. “The city is a big investor in the public education system in Newark.”

When Newark schools were forced to shutter their doors for over a year, virtual instruction posed a number of problems for students and families. These issues included a lack of access to technology and internet connectivity, isolation from classmates, and limited resources and support for underserved families.

Academically, many students struggled throughout the pandemic.

Reports surfaced over the course of 2021 which showed just how serious the pandemic’s disruption was on student learning. Spring 2021 test scores indicated that only 9% of Newark students in grades two to eight met state expectations in math, and 11% of students met expectations in reading.

In March 2021, JerseyCAN, a nonprofit focused on advocating for high-quality schools for New Jersey students, released the first statewide study, “A Time to Act: COVID-19 Academic Slide in New Jersey,” to quantify learning loss for students during the 2020-21 school year. The report revealed that across the board students lost significant amounts of expected learning in the first half of the 2020-21 school year, with Black and Latinx students losing more learning than their peers.

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