District Update: BOE July 27, 2020
Good evening. Governor Murphy, speaking today at his news conference stated emphatically that he supports in-person education in New Jersey come September. Quoting him directly, "Every education expert has confirmed that in-person education is critical, and remote learning is only an acceptable substitute when absolutely necessary. I believe we must try to include some aspect of in-person education for our children in the fall.”
And so we shall.
To that end, the districtwide Restart committee, composed of administrators, BOE members, teachers, parents and students will meet for the third time this Thursday morning to continue these discussions and to build-out the specifics of our return come September. Involving a wide array of voices doesn’t always make for easy—or quick—conversation, but it does allow for necessary even, at times, uncomfortable exchanges, so that we can get this as right as possible.
This Thursday afternoon, July 30, following the Restart committee meeting, we will be releasing an overview of our Road Back to School by way of a letter to the community. The entire plan, with all moving parts, will then be shared next week as August begins.
And while many particulars are yet to be determined, I can share that conversation has centered around bringing back K-6 students five days a week for a shortened day and creating a hybrid system for grades 7-12. These notions are supported by the fact that the size and architecture of our K-6 buildings are better suited to accommodate social distancing than our middle or high schools, along with recognizing that older students are able to be on their own outside of class.
A virtual learning option will also be available to any family choosing to keep their children at home. We are still building-out the specifics of an online plan as those guidelines were only released this past Friday and we will include them in the final version of the full plan come next week.
Every study released, every webinar presented, stresses the importance of communication with all stakeholders and we intend to honor that directive to the fullest. Beginning August 10, each school will schedule a meeting with its specific parents and guardians to establish community buy-in, address shared concerns, and get the word out to each particular student population. I also post a short video update to our district website each Tuesday and Friday morning.
Additionally, given that so much has changed in recent weeks, this Friday, we will also share two additional brief surveys-- one with staff and one with the community-- in order to better assess both teachers’ and parents’ intentions for the coming school year. We will partner with the Association when creating the survey for staff.
There are still many moving parts to be addressed: health and safety, accommodating our Special Needs population in the manner which they deserve, integrating curriculum and transportation with the vo-tech schools, addressing the social-emotional challenges of this restart, and the possible need for additional staff in order to cover all bases as required by the NJ DOE.
No magic wand or secret potion exists. Nor is there a precedent we can consult for returning to school during a Pandemic. Mistakes will be made, adjustments in-the-moment will occur. And while significant professional development will also be offered to our already-talented staff, there will still be many, many spontaneous pivots, and a wealth of Lessons Learned as this endeavor moves forward.
We won’t rush to share a plan merely for the sake of sharing, and we won’t cut any corners or offer any quick fixes simply to “put something out.” But I can promise you this: we will absolutely emphasize the safety and health of our students and staff, and we will provide a quality educational experience for all of them come September. Please work with us, as together, we can prioritize our most important community resource—the children of Hazlet.