Edison School District has requested to begin school year all remote through at least Oct. 16

EDISON – The Edison School District has requested to begin the 2020-21 school year all-remote at least until Oct. 16.

Schools Superintendent Bernard Bragen, in a letter to the community on Aug. 18, said the district submitted an amended re-opening plan to the state with “the health and well-being of students, staff and parents of the utmost importance.”

“The decision about in-person instruction for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year will be made upon assessing conditions connected to the pandemic at that time,” he said.

Bragen said the district “will ensure the staff and students robustly engage in virtual learning during the period of remote instruction.”

School administrators presented the mandated hybrid in-person plan to the public on Aug. 10 where opinions differed on instruction time.

Board of Education members Jerry Shi and Shivi Prasad-Madhukar raised concerns of lost instruction time from a normal regular school day verses the proposed hybrid in-person back-to-school plan.

At the high school level, students would normally receive 45 minutes of instruction time. The proposed hybrid in-person plan calls for 25 minutes of instruction time for each period.

Bragen said virtual instruction will never replace the classroom. And with 72% of the student population electing 100% remote instruction and 28% electing the in-person hybrid plan, Bragen said it’s important to find balance.

That is why small group sessions are scheduled at the end of day for students and teachers to touch base with one another.

Gail Pawlikowski, chief academic officer for the district, said it’s not about the time spent with the teacher, it’s about the design of a lesson and what task the student is being asked to do.

“A good teacher doesn’t just stand in front of a room and direct instruction, a good teacher is a facilitator … our teachers have been trained on this so they will push students to explore, research, think critically and be creative,” she said. “That’s what will make for a good lesson, not the time where [the teachers] spend with [the students].”

Pawlikowski said the scheduled time in the afternoon will give teachers an opportunity to check in on students that may be struggling or students who want to talk about what they are exploring and so forth.

Students will follow a schedule whether they select the hybrid in-person plan or the remote plan. Each school may have a different hybrid in-person plan depending on the percentage of students who selected the hybrid plan.

Hybrid In-Person School Plan 

If 50% or more students choose in-person learning, the students will be split up in four groups – A, B, C and D. Each group will attend one in-person session with Wednesday being remote learning for all students.

If 25-30% of the students choose in-person learning, the students will be split up in two groups – A and B. Each group will attend two in-person sessions with Wednesday being remote learning for all students.

If less than 25% of the students choose in-person learning, the students will be grouped in one group – A. The students will attend school five days a week.

The elementary hybrid and remote schedule begins at 9 a.m. with six 30-minute periods. Two breaks are included in the schedule.

Elementary hybrid students will be dismissed between 12:30-12:45 p.m. From 1:45 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., four 20-minute small group sessions will be held for all students.

The middle and high schools will follow a single session bell schedule. The middle school schedule begins at 8:30 a.m. and the high school schedule begins at 8 a.m. Remote students will join class via Zoom or Google Meets for whole group instruction. A camera will be set up in all classrooms. Two breaks are included in the schedule.

The high school will be dismissed at noon for lunch and the middle school will be dismissed at 1 p.m. Afternoon class meeting sessions for all students will be held by subject – Monday for math, Tuesday for English, Wednesday for science, Thursday for social studies and Friday for health and electives.

Time is also allotted at the beginning and end of school for students to interact with each other and with their teachers.

Special education classes will be available five days a week in-person or remote.

Students who begin in the hybrid in-person plan have the option to go 100% remote at any time; however, students who begin 100% remote will have to wait until the end of the first marking period for the district to reassess the plans.

Health and safety

Students and staff will conduct self-health screenings daily with required documentation prior to entry into school buildings. Thermal cameras will be placed in the entrances of the buildings.

Instruction/reminders will be conducted on hand washing, social distancing, mask wearing, sneezing/coughing, eye contact, movement and bathroom use. Hand sanitizers will be stationed throughout the buildings.

Lockers will not be used, faculty and students are required to wear masks if able to, and there will be one-way hallway traffic where possible.

Social emotional learning training will be provided for students and staff.

If a student or staff member is experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19 while at school, the individual must immediately isolate and leave the campus. A COVID-19 test with medical documentation is required upon return to school.

If a student or staff member is in class with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, all students and staff members who came into contact with the individual will need to quarantine for 14 days.

Students or staff members who are exposed to COVID-19 outside of school are required to quarantine for 14 days from the last date of exposure.

Facilities will be cleaned on a 30-minute rotation and wipes will be on hand to wipe down desks. Electrostatic cleaning devices will be used for deep cleaning of facilities.

For transportation, students, bus drivers and aides must wear masks on the buses, there will be assigned seating for reduced capacity, and buses will be deep cleaned daily and sanitized after both morning and afternoon routes.

Next steps

The district’s Department of Technology will continue to support students and staff with any service of device from repairs, replacements to providing a loaner device while a device is being serviced. The district has set up a helpdesk email and phone number.

There will be no field trips until further notice, before/aftercare options are being reviewed with the township and virtual back to school evenings and parent/teacher conferences will be planned.

Bragen said more information on start of the school year will be shared once the district receives final state approval to begin all-remote.

For more information and to address concerns, email edisonsafereturn@edison.k12.nj.us.