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Freehold Borough administrators working to bring students back to school

FREEHOLD – Administrators in the Freehold Borough K-8 School District are taking action that will eventually allow students to return to the district’s buildings at some point during the 2020-21 academic year.

Since the start of the school year, all of the district’s students have been receiving instruction on a remote basis.

District administrators determined that as the new school year began with the 2020 coronavirus outbreak still an issue, they were unable to meet health and safety guidelines related to the reopening of school buildings.

The schools have been closed since March when the coronavirus initially struck New Jersey. Students completed the 2019-20 school year by receiving instruction remotely.

Freehold Borough administrators planned to begin the 2020-21 school year with a hybrid model of in-person and remote learning, but that plan did not materialize after they identified two significant issues: the lack of physical barriers between students to limit the possible transmission of the virus, and the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) filtration systems, according to Superintendent of Schools Rocco Tomazic.

Tomazic discussed those issues in a Sept. 20 letter to the community. He said administrators are working to implement the hybrid instruction plan.

On Sept. 21, Board of Education members approved the purchase of 800 desk barriers from H&H Interiors. The equipment cost $22,500 and board members requested to have the funds withdrawn from district’s capital reserve.

Tomazic said the desk barriers are expected to be delivered in a matter of weeks.

Regarding the HVAC issues, he said the desired higher grade filters will not be able to be installed because the HVAC systems are not designed to handle that equipment.

Instead, administrators are pursuing a system called a bipolar ionizer as an authorized alternative.

“We have professionals inspecting our systems and we should have a price and a timeline shortly,” Tomazic said. “We also are looking at portable HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters on a limited basis. This, too, is an authorized alternative. The resolution of the HVAC filtration issue is what will drive our date to transition to the in-school hybrid mode.”

The board members requested a $5,000 withdrawal from the capital reserve to purchase five Airmedic Pro 5 HD air purifiers.

Tomazic said district administrators will give parents at least three weeks notice of any change in operations.

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