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Manalapan-Englishtown board rejects motion to immediately reopen schools five days a week

Members of the Manalapan-Englishtown Regional School District Board of Education have rejected a motion to bring children back for five-day a week in-school instruction by the end of November.

The motion and the vote during the board’s Nov. 10 meeting may have been symbolic because the district’s superintendent of schools said that if the motion had passed, he would not have followed the board’s all-or-nothing directive.

As the 2020 coronavirus pandemic continues, students enrolled in the K-8 district are receiving a combination of in-person and virtual education, or a 100% virtual education, depending on the option their parents selected.

Manalapan-Englishtown schools have not been open for five-day a week instruction for all pupils at any time during the 2020-21 school year.

The Nov. 10 meeting at the Manalapan Englishtown Middle School included more than two hours of public comment during which parents begged board members and Superintendent of Schools John J. Marciante Jr. to open the schools five days a week.

Parents who spoke said that in the current environment of hybrid learning or 100% virtual learning, their children are not receiving the type of education to which they and their children have become accustomed in the district.

Those who spoke said parents are willing to take the risk of sending their children to school five days a week even as thousands of new cases are being reported in New Jersey each day.

When public comment concluded, board member Gerald Bruno made a motion, seconded by Brian Graime, to direct Marciante to open the schools for five days of instruction per week by the end of November.

Before the board members voted, Marciante said they do not have the authority to direct him to take a specific action regarding the operation of the school district.

He said that if the motion passed, he would not follow the directive without evidence showing it is safe to open schools five days a week.

In a roll call vote, Bruno, Graime, Christine Parisi and Lori Semel voted “yes.”

Board President Dotty Porcaro, David Kane, Janet Lewis and Ryan Urgo voted “no.”

The tie vote meant the motion did not pass.

Board member Joanne Schechter was absent from the meeting.

Bruno said he would make the motion again at a future meeting.

During the meeting, Marciante said he should have opened the schools five days a week in September when the district was running at fewer than two positive coronavirus tests per week. He said that figure is now at about 10 positive tests per week.

Marciante said he would need to see a trend – but he did not define the length of a trend – of fewer positive cases per week before he opens schools five days a week.

It remains unknown at this time when the district’s pupils will be permitted to return to school five days per week.

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