Superintendent of Schools Joseph G. Majka has detailed the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District’s plan to reopen schools for the 2020-21 academic year.
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.
Murphy later said an all-remote option must be provided for parents who do not want to send their children into a school.
“We recognize the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every aspect of our lives and appreciate (parents’) continued flexibility and understanding,” Majka said. “As we look to the future and plan for students to return to in-person instruction, we must recognize and prepare for how this pandemic will change the way students learn.”
Majka said that “after referencing the (state reopening plan), collaborating with district leaders and colleagues across the state, incorporating input and feedback from various stakeholders, including parent and teacher surveys, the state Department of Education, the state Department of Health and our governor’s daily briefings, and from the ongoing feedback from members of our district reopening committees, we have developed a hybrid model as part of our district reopening plan in September.”
He noted the plan is subject to change.
“We will split our school populations into Group A and Group B. Group A will attend school on Monday and Tuesday and Group B will attend school on Thursday and Friday. On Wednesday, all students will be home and engaged in virtual instruction, with the exception of our specialized populations,” the superintendent said.
Students whose last name begins with A-K will be assigned to Group A. Students whose last name begins with L-Z will be assigned to Group B.
“As a district, we recognize the unique learning needs of our specialized populations, therefore, there are some exceptions to the hybrid cohort schedule,” Majka said. “The district will be providing full-day, in-person instruction and services five days per week for students in special education self-contained classrooms and identified students receiving English as a Second Language.”
He said parents may select an all-remote educational option for their children.
“Students participating in the district’s full-time remote learning option will be afforded the same quality and scope of instruction and other educational services as any other student otherwise participating in district programs.
“This includes, for example, access to standards-based instruction of the same quality and rigor as that afforded all other students of the district, access to the requisite educational technology, and the provision of special education and related services to the greatest extent possible.
“The district has established a protocol for students to transition from full-time remote learning back to a combination of in-person and remote instruction. Any student who begins the year with full-time remote instruction will have the opportunity to transition back to the in-person and remote model at the beginning of the next marking period,” Majka said.
Face coverings will be required to be worn by all staff members and students at all times. Students are expected to come to school with a face covering.
Transportation will be provided to students. Face coverings must be worn by students on the bus at all times, including entering and exiting the vehicle, and at the bus stop.
“Parents will have the opportunity to waive (district-provided) transportation and the district will make accommodations at our schools to allow for a large number of caregiver drop-off and pick-up of students,” Majka said.
For pre-kindergarten, the superintendent said administrators are committed to providing high quality instruction to the greatest extent possible and he said those children will attend school five days a week.
“We are exploring the ability to provide in-person instruction to our tuition-based preschool students, however, given the requirements of class size and social distancing, the district will be determining if offering a program for tuition-based students is feasible,” Majka said.
Parent Q&A sessions regarding the reopening of schools have been scheduled for Aug. 12 and Aug. 19 at Matawan Regional High School, 450 Atlantic Ave, Aberdeen. For more information, call 732-705-4000.
“We will open seating (on those dates) for the first 90 people who confirm their attendance. We will live-stream the sessions to allow all community members to join remotely. We have been in this together from the start, we remain strong together, and we will continue to find our way together,” Majka said.