The six schools that comprise the Freehold Regional High School District will employ a combination of in-person and remote instruction to limit the number of people in a building as the 2020-21 school year begins in September.
The Board of Education announced the plan on Aug. 10. The district operates high schools in Colts Neck, Freehold Borough, Freehold Township, Howell, Manalapan and Marlboro. Students from those six municipalities, plus Englishtown and Farmingdale, attend the FRHSD.
The schools closed in mid-March when the 2020 coronavirus pandemic struck New Jersey. The buildings remained closed for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year.
As school district administrators prepare for the start of the 2020-21 academic year, Gov. Phil Murphy has directed them to provide an all-remote education for parents who do not want to send their children to a school for in-person instruction.
School administrators in some New Jersey municipalities have said they will not provide any in-person instruction at the start of the school year.
State officials have directed administrators in those districts to work toward a plan to provide in-person instruction at some point during the school year.
FRHSD administrators said, “This hybrid structure (of in-person and remote learning) will blend face-to-face instruction with synchronous remote learning from home. We will start the school year following a partial day schedule due to social distancing guidelines and limitations pertaining to lunch service.”
Synchronous remote learning occurs when a teacher and pupils interact in different places, but during the same time.
For in-person instruction, students will be assigned to a cohort based on the first letter of their last name. Students will attend school for a maximum of three days a week and have remote learning on the other days.
Special education students, English Language Learners, and displaced and homeless students will have in-person learning five days a week.
Administrators said the hybrid schedule will work differently than remote learning did during the spring. Students at home will attend classes on a partial day bell schedule via Google Meet and Google Classroom.
The FRHSD grading system and Genesis will be used to measure and communicate student progress and to determine marking period and final grades. The district’s attendance policy will be in effect whether a student is in school or at home.
“The pandemic has changed many aspects of our schools, community and world,” Superintendent of Schools Charles Sampson said. “As we prepare to open for the 2020-21 school year, we do so understanding there are varied opinions about how to most effectively educate our children under these conditions.
“We have engaged in an open and extensive planning process, using our vast school community as a resource throughout our preparation to reopen our schools.
“I would like to extend my sincerest thanks to the members of our community who have reached out with their concerns and to those who participated in our restart committee and our community focus group meetings,” the superintendent said.
All students in the district are eligible to receive full-time remote learning, according to guidance provided by the state.
Students who select full-time remote learning will attend their scheduled classes every day on the partial day bell schedule via Google Meet and Google Classroom; will have an opportunity to meet with teachers remotely during designated times; and will be eligible to participate in extracurricular activities and athletics.
Students and staff members will be expected to follow all guidelines and procedures outlined by the administration, in school and on a school bus, including social distancing to the maximum extent practicable; face coverings will be worn for the duration of the school day, including riding a bus, entering and exiting a school, walking in hallways and inside classrooms; face covering breaks will be built into the schedule.
Administrators said that at the start of each class, students will sanitize their hands and use a sanitizing wipe for their desk/work space (gloves will be available).
“We understand there are questions and concerns that will continue to be raised by our community,” Sampson said.
“Although this is not an ideal situation, we must continue to prioritize the health and safety of our students and staff in compliance with all New Jersey Department of Education and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
“Our Restart and Recovery Plan will be modified as health circumstances, guidance and conditions shift within our communities, the state and nation.
“With the changing nature of the COVID-19 situation, our plans can change from (a combination of in-person and remote learning) to all remote learning at any moment.
“We have a plan that will allow students and staff to move smoothly between models as necessary. We take the responsibility of educating every student seriously,” the superintendent said.