TRENTON >> The New Jersey Department of Education, the New Jersey School Boards Association, and Sustainable Jersey June 2 announced the formation of the Sustainable Jersey Digital Schools Program.
The new Digital Schools program will provide actions, resources, and programming for the state’s public schools within the successful Sustainable Jersey for Schools initiative. It is supported by Leadership for Educational Excellence, a coalition of the state’s major educational organizations, representing local school boards, school administrators, teachers, business officials, principals and supervisors, and parent associations.
“The importance of digital and remote learning to sustainability and resiliency has never been more evident as now, when schools across the state are faced with the need to address learning during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, NJSBA executive director. “We are excited to work with the New Jersey Department of Education and Sustainable Jersey for Schools in launching the Digital Schools Program to assist schools in meeting this unprecedented challenge.”
“The New Jersey Department of Education is committed to expanding local school districts’ capacity for digital learning and ensuring that all students have access to the resources necessary for instruction in a digital age, whether in school or remotely,” said Dr. Lamont Repollet, Commissioner of Education. “The digital divide is a longstanding equity issue brought front and center by the recent health-related school closures. The new Digital Schools Program will play an important role in advancing a path to resolving this critical issue here in New Jersey.”
The program will be administered by the Sustainability Institute at The College of New Jersey. Laurence Cocco, former director of educational technology at the NJDOE, will serve as senior program consultant for the Digital Schools initiative, which is built on the legacy of Future Ready Schools – New Jersey (FRS-NJ),
NJSBA and NJDOE, the original partners in FRS-NJ, agreed to formally separate the state’s program from the Future Ready Schools national brand (a subsidiary of the non-profit Alliance for Excellent Education). The change will enable New Jersey’s program to more effectively link its content and standards to New Jersey-specific priorities, programs and resources.
Two hundred fifty-nine schools from 76 districts were previously certified as “Future Ready” under FRS-NJ. The former program’s content and resources will be reformatted to reflect the criteria established by the successful Sustainable Jersey for Schools program, which involves over 60% of the state’s school districts in efforts that advance environmental and financial sustainability.
The transition to Sustainable Jersey will strengthen professional staff support, guidance materials, training, technical assistance, and access to ancillary funding sources.
“Education is a pillar of sustainability,” said Randall E. Solomon, director of the Sustainability Institute at The College of New Jersey. “Students have to master technology to become productive citizens, educators must master technology to become effective teachers, and schools must become adept at using technology to address distance learning and communications with parents and communities.
“COVID-19 has also shown us how disparities in access to technology among students and schools are exacerbating existing social inequality,” Solomon continued. “The Digital Schools Program will provide schools, teachers, and parents with a roadmap for how to ensure technology is used appropriately to bring about a sustainable future.”