EATONTOWN – Scott McCue, the superintendent of schools for the Eatontown Public Schools, has informed parents that district administrators will implement a plan that combines in-person and virtual (remote) education as the 2020-21 school year begins.
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 education at home.
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. He subsequently said parents may request an all-remote option for their children.
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.
Eatontown, which provides education for children from preschool to eighth grade, will divide students by their last name into two groups that will attend school for half-day, in-person classes two days a week and have remote learning the other three days of the school week, according to McCue.
Students whose last name begins with A through L will be in Group A and attend in-person classes on Monday and Tuesday.
Students whose last name begins with M through Z will be in Group B and attend in-person classes on Thursday and Friday.
Each Wednesday will be an online learning day for all students.
Teachers will be required to have assignments and provide live instruction for students during virtual (remote) learning days.
“Splitting the student body in half will accommodate the social distancing requirements sent down by the New Jersey Board of Education and the state,” McCue said. “A big piece of our plan is to maintain the health and safety of our students and staff.”
McCue said having students in school for a half-day will provide sufficient time for a building to be cleaned and sanitized for the following day.
Administrators are planning to send parents a short survey about the upcoming school year and are asking for the survey to be completed by Aug. 7.
The first question on the survey will ask parents if they will have their children follow the combined in-person and remote education plan, or if they will select the all-remote option.
The other two questions on the survey will focus on transportation to and from school if a child will be attending classes, and the availability of internet access at home.
McCue said between 5% and 10% of the district’s students did not have internet access at home when schools closed in March.
The superintendent said he is working to ensure that every student will have internet access for the 2020-21 school year and he said the district will provide service to those who need it.
All students will be provided with a device (computer) by the district. McCue said he believes the remote curriculum to be offered during the upcoming academic year will be enhanced compared to what administrators were able to provide to students when schools closed suddenly in March and never reopened.
Administrators will continue to provide services for students who are having issues with their work by providing basic skills learning classes and they will offer resources to help English as a Second Language students.
Students who require special education services will be able to attend school four days a week. McCue said in-person classes will provide the children with assistance they would not be able to receive in a remote setting.
“We are committed to providing our students with the services they need to help with their learning,” the superintendent said.
McCue said the school district will ask parents and staff to complete a COVID-19 Symptoms Survey in their Genesis Portal.
There is no requirement indicated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for teachers and students to take a COVID-19 test before starting school.
Students and staff members must wear a face mask at all times. Administrators said there will be face covering breaks at appropriate times during the day.
Students will be asked to wear a mask when riding the bus and at their bus stop if social distancing is not possible.
The school district will hold professional development days for teachers from Sept. 1-3. Staff members will review the reopening plan and the remote curriculum. The first day of school is scheduled for Sept. 8.