MARLBORO – Eric Hibbs, the Marlboro K-8 School District’s superintendent of schools, has informed residents about the initial steps the Board of Education and administrators are taking to reopen the district’s schools in September.
New Jersey’s schools were ordered to close in mid-March by Gov. Phil Murphy at the start of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. For the remainder of the school year, students received a remote (virtual) education at their homes.
Several weeks ago, Murphy directed school administrators to develop, in collaboration with community stakeholders, a plan to reopen schools in September in a manner that best fits a district’s local needs.
In a press release, the governor said, “This has been an unprecedented time for our students and educators, but we are pleased to announce we anticipate the return to our classrooms in some capacity this fall.
“The return to school will pose challenges, but we are confident New Jersey’s school districts can move forward in a way that best serves the needs of their district while also achieving a safe environment for students and staff,” Murphy said.
Guidance from the governor’s office describes the health and safety practices administrators should prioritize, including social distancing, the wearing of face masks, limiting capacity in classrooms and an increase in sanitation and disinfecting of surfaces.
In planning for the reopening of Marlboro’s schools, Hibbs said, “I have always been honest, based on this guidance, our reopening will have many significant challenges.
“Based on the required and recommended guidelines, it is unlikely we will have all students report to school on the same days. A hybrid model combining in-person learning on some days and remote learning on other days is the most likely scenario.
“Although we are still planning, the guidance and our district-specific circumstances do not look favorable for a full restart in September. I really want (residents) to understand why.
“Here is just one example of many concerns. We must practice social distancing in the classroom to the best extent possible. If we can’t maintain physical distance, we must use additional modifications.
“When we can’t social distance, students must wear masks. The only way students could remove their masks is if we either maintained the proper social distance or if we had barriers.
“One of our problems, especially in the elementary schools, will be excessive heat. There is absolutely no way our elementary students can have a full classroom and sit behind a barrier with a mask on in a room that could approach 90 to 95 degrees. This is just one of many concerns we are navigating as a district,” the superintendent said.
Hibbs said administrators have created a COVID-19 team and several subcommittees that will create a detailed plan to reopen schools. District administrators expect to survey parents and ask for their thoughts and feedback regarding the reopening of schools.
“Information gathered from the survey will help us make decisions about our reopening plan. I want people to know I understand their thoughts and feelings. I have received so many emails from the community over the past three months. My goal is to devise the very best plan for our community,” Hibbs said.