By a 5-2 margin, the Jefferson Board of Education voted to hire fall sport assistant coaches, including football, cross country, field hockey, boys’ and girls’ soccer, cheerleading, and marching band.
Board member Amy Gould, who voted no to the proposal, was concerned about the hiring because of concerns about whether school will continue.
“What if we don’t have school,” she said. “I would have liked to see a caveat put into this contract paying assistant coaches on a per diem basis, or perhaps month to month, but the union was not cooperative with us on this. I feel that giving the entire stipend at once is irresponsible.”
Board president Matt Millar noted that the NJSIAA, the state’s sports governing body, has said that if fall sports cannot be played in the fall due to coronavirus, they will be played in February.
Larry Wasserman, who also voted against the proposal, further questioned the value of this move to the taxpayers.
“This is about $82,000 that we will be paying these people and they may not work,” he said.
“The governor is sure that schools will be open sometime in the fall,” board vice president Stacey Poulas said. “The staff needs to be available. This allows for preconditioning activities. Of course, school is unpredictable, but we need to consider what is happening right now. And the coaches need to work with the players. We are doing a disservice to the players by not having assistant coaches.”
“Some of these brand new freshmen have not met the head coaches of their sports yet, and they may not meet them until they play a varsity sport,” Millar said. “It is imperative that these assistant coaches get on the field. Coaches don’t just coach on the field. They work off the field as well. They teach the athletes.”
In addition, several parents spoke out about whether school should start on a fully virtual basis or not. Much of the discussion centered around the air filtration system, or lack of, in many of the school buildings.
The school buildings have air filters with a rating of 8 MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value) standard according to ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers). Requirements for commercial buildings is from 4-8, so Jefferson’s buildings are at the highest required standard.
However, some parents feel that simply meeting the standard is not enough during Covid times and that the HVAC systems in the schools should be upgraded. Superintendent Jeanne Howe said that each school’s upgrade would be a multi-million-dollar project, and the budget simply doesn’t have room in it for such an undertaking.