Schools across the Garden State remain closed and students are continuing their studies online and at home. But educators are also doing everything they can to keep connected to students in other important ways.

Richard Bozza, the executive director of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, said schools are also important community institutions, serving as shelters during weather emergencies, hubs for social and emotional learning and also providing other services.

“Think about how many families are receiving food because they are eligible for food services because of their low levels of income," he said.

He said he’s speaking with school superintendents on a regular basis about what they’re trying to do to maintain connections with students.

"We see parades of teachers going out to their students. We see special events, drawing hearts and rainbows in windows and other kinds of things to try and keep the morale of the community together," he said. “That’s something we’re trying to invent as we go forward and we’re getting better and better at this.”

Teachers are also organizing class projects or asking students to wear a certain color shirt on a certain day, which helps to remind students they are all linked. Having a parade of teachers drive through a neighborhood to wave at students is one way to remind children they still have a heart-felt connection to school.

“School is a social institution, so they meet with their friends, they interact with people," Bozza said. "Probably as adults, every one of us can think back on a teacher that had a tremendous impact on our lives.”

He said the connections we have with different people in a school setting help us develop as human beings.

“All of that is critically important," he said. "It’s a wonderful part of schooling that people sometimes forget as we look at the emphasis on academics.”

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