Administrators in the Upper Freehold Regional School District are planning to combine in-person instruction with remote (virtual) learning when schools open 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 2019-20 school year, students remained at home and received instruction remotely.
Earlier this summer, Murphy directed school administrators to develop a plan to reopen schools for the 2020-21 academic year in a manner that best fits a district’s local needs. The governor initially mandated in-person instruction for all students.
However, Murphy later said an all-remote option must be provided for parents who do not want to send their children into a school at any time.
The governor changed course again when he said a school district could open with 100% remote instruction if administrators could not meet certain criteria to safely reopen buildings to students and staff members.
Numerous school districts are seeking to use the 100% remote option, but Upper Freehold Regional is not among them.
On Aug. 5, members of the Board of Education approved a reopening plan that is a hybrid model of in-person and remote instruction.
According to district administrators, students whose parents select the hybrid model of instruction will be divided alphabetically into two groups.
Upper Freehold Regional educates children from Upper Freehold Township and Allentown in the Newell Elementary School, Stone Bridge Middle School and Allentown High School.
Students of high school age who reside in Millstone Township also attend Allentown High School through a send-receive relationship between the Millstone Township K-8 School District and Upper Freehold Regional.
District administrators said that during the 2020-21 school year, they plan to incorporate four phases of instruction.
In the first phase, which will begin on Sept. 8 and is scheduled to continue until Sept. 25, the hybrid model of in-person and remote learning will be used and students will attend school on a half-day/early dismissal schedule.
One group of students in the hybrid model will be in school on Monday and Tuesday and receive remote instruction on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday during the first phase.
The second group’s in-person days during the first phase will be Thursday and Friday, with remote instruction provided on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
The second phase is scheduled to begin on Sept. 28. The hybrid model of in-person and remote learning will be retained, but the length of the day for students on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday will become a full-day schedule.
In the second phase, one group of students will still receive in-person instruction on Monday and Tuesday and remote instruction on Thursday and Friday. The second group will still have Thursday and Friday as their in-person days and Monday and Tuesday as their remote days.
However, Wednesday will alternate between in-person and remote learning for the two groups. Wednesday will follow a half-day/early dismissal schedule.
District administrators said the start date of the third phase has not been determined. They said the start date will be based on heath data and discussions with medical professionals.
“The goal (of the third phase) will be to gradually increase the number of students who attend each day. This could range from 60% to 100% of our students on a given day. We may adjust our phase three plan to increase the number of days where a higher percentage of students attend,” district administrators said.
For the fourth phase, the objective is to have all students receive in-person instruction on every school day, employing a full-day schedule.