Schools are officially back in session across Jersey City. At last night’s Board of Education public caucus meeting, the board approved agreements to resolve a staff shortage affecting its before- and after-school programs and scheduled a vote on a trial restorative justice program.
The agreements signed with the Jersey City Paraprofessionals Association and the Jersey City Educational Secretaries Association established stipends for district employees working in the Morning S.T.A.R.S. and C.A.S.P.E.R. programs.
According to the district website, the morning S.T.A.R.S. program is a before-school childcare service that starts at 7:00 a.m. It is provided to students of Jersey City Public Schools for a monthly fee of $100.
C.A.S.P.E.R. is an after-school program that caters to students in grades Pre-K-3 through 5th grade. The program operates from 2:45 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., during which certified school staff supervise various activities.
Superintendent Norma Fernandez said the district has already hired 90 dedicated paraprofessionals to work the programs.
Trustee Younass Mohamed Barkouch praised Superintendent Fernandez’s efficiency in getting these agreements signed, noting the three-week turnaround from when the issue about staffing the programs was raised.
At Thursday’s public meeting, the board will vote to implement a pilot program that incorporates restorative justice practices into the district’s code of conduct. The goal of restorative justice practices is to teach students about the consequences of their actions, as opposed to just punishing them.
“When they’re disciplined in school, it’s the safe way to learn that poor choices lead to consequences later on,” said Superintendent Fernandez.
The program, known as the Compass Code, will be piloted at P.S. #5 and P.S. #34. These schools were chosen because restorative practices are “most useful with younger students,” according to Fernandez, and choosing two K-8 schools provides a greater variety of grades with different demographics and resources.
“The goal is that down the road, every one of our schools uses restorative practices,” said Fernandez.