Reopening Schools Update
As you know from my previous message, the District Restart Committee required by the Department of Education has been hard at work developing a Re-Opening of Schools Plan addressing the return of students this September. After several meetings with the committee of the whole and sub-committees, we created a plan that focuses on safety and balances the needs of the district, while at the same time meets the ever-changing guidelines established by the Governor’s Executive Orders and the NJDOE.
Throughout the process, it became abundantly clear that no plan would be perfect and no plan would truly satisfy all stakeholders. With that in mind we intend on implementing our plan in phases, revisiting it after several weeks, reviewing the data, while keeping a close eye on the health of the community. We do hope that in time we will be able to move closer to a normal educational environment, and yet are prepared to face the unlikelihood of another setback.
Let me first highlight some of the major decisions the committee had to struggle with and share the expectations during the first phase of the plan. The major considerations included the health of all involved focusing on the ability to practice social distancing to the fullest extent possible and the wearing of facial coverings. First, all staff and visitors will be required to wear face coverings (a mask) prior to entering the buildings. Students will be required to wear face coverings any time they are not able to practice social distancing, and at all times when moving about the buildings. When appropriate, a mask break will be made available to students at the discretion of the teacher, only while in a socially distant environment. It is expected that every student will report to school with two masks. In the event of an emergency the district will provide one if needed.
Every parent will also be asked to fill out a pre-screening form for each child prior to the school day, responding to a number of COVID questions, including a temperature reading for their child, and verifying that their responses are true and accurate. No student will be allowed to attend school for the day without completing the form and answering all questions. It is important to note that in order for our plan or any plan as critical as this to work, we will absolutely need to have the full cooperation of all our staff, parents and students.
In order to provide the best possibility of being able to practice social distancing, the district will be divided into two groups alphabetically, which hopefully will help us take into account siblings attending various buildings around district. Cohort A whose last names are at the beginning of the alphabet, i.e. A, B, C... will be attending school on Monday and Tuesday (i.e. Mon.-Cohort A, Tues.-Cohort A). Cohort B whose last names are at the end of the alphabet, i.e. ... X, Y, Z. will be attending school on Thursday and Friday (i.e. Thur.-Cohort B, Fri.-Cohort B.). Wednesday will be designated as an all-district Virtual Instruction day, which will allow for us to do enhanced cleaning without the presence of students. In addition, in order to minimize the issues surrounding lunchtime gatherings, we will be implementing an abbreviated school day from 8:30 am to 1:00 pm for grades K-8 and from 8:00 to 12:30 pm. at the High School. We are also planning to provide a staggered start time for preschoolers who will attend school from 8:40-10:40 ("morning" session) and 10:50- 12:50 ("afternoon" session).
Just recently, the DOE released new guidelines to districts providing parents with the option of allowing their child to receive 100% of their education in a virtual environment at home instead of within the school building. Shortly, we will be sending out more information about this option along with an extremely important new survey with questions we‘ll need to have answered in order for us to provide your child with the appropriate learning environment. Please respond to our survey in a timely manner.
The district has also been working closely with the NJSIAA and its established guidelines to ensure that our fall sports can move forward in phases as outlined by the athletic organization.
The district has invested in several types of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) including facial coverings, student partitions and barriers, hand sanitizers, cleaning supplies and disinfectant equipment. Protocols will be put in place to minimize student and staff contact whenever possible. Lunches will continue to be available, but all will be “grab and go” style. More detailed information about lunches will be communicated by each school administrator.
The DOE guidelines and their updates to The Road Back Restart and Recovery Plan for Education can be found on the DOE website at:
Upon finalization of our tentative plan, we will be sending it to the County office for review, which will be then sent to the State for approval. This document should be viewed as a living document and most likely will require modification as the guidelines change. Please contact your building administrator to share your concerns or for further clarification.
Superintendent of Schools