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Freehold Borough children will not return for in-person instruction as planned

FREEHOLD – Students in the Freehold Borough K-8 School District will not resume in-person instruction on Dec. 14 following a decision by district administrators to delay the return of children to the district’s three buildings.

Since the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, all of the pupils in the district have been receiving remote instruction.

In early November, Board of Education members approved an updated restart and re-entry plan that allowed children who are enrolled in five special education classes at the Freehold Learning Center elementary school to begin receiving a combination of in-person and remote instruction. The pupils physically returned to school on Nov. 16.

The board’s restart and re-entry plan established Dec. 14 as the date when the remainder of the district’s pupils would begin receiving a combination of in-person and remote instruction (referred to as a hybrid plan).

Parents would have retained the option for their children to continue to receive instruction on a fully remote basis.

However, due to a mid-November increase in the state’s reported number of coronavirus cases, Superintendent of Schools Rocco Tomazic said the pupils who have been attending the five special education classes at the Freehold Learning Center would return to fully remote instruction and the rest of the pupils would not return for in-person instruction as scheduled on Dec. 14, and would instead remain on fully remote instruction.

Tomazic made the announcement on Nov. 30. He said Monmouth County and Freehold Borough were placed in a high risk category for the virus by the COVID Regional Risk Assessment on Nov. 19.

Monmouth County and Freehold Borough were designated in the moderate risk category for the virus when the school year began in September, but for several reasons, administrators chose not to offer pupils any level of in-person instruction.

When a school district is determined to be at high risk for the virus, it is recommended by the state that administrators only provide fully remote instruction.

Tomazic said the school district will remain on fully remote instruction until Monmouth County and Freehold Borough reliably return to a moderate risk designation and an updated transition plan for a combination of in-person and remote instruction can be implemented.

Administrators will give parents at least three weeks notice of any planned return to in-person instruction.

“The district will be constantly monitoring public health conditions, but in all cases, will thoroughly review the district status on Jan. 29, 2021, the end of the second marking period,” Tomazic said.

Tomazic said once Freehold Borough returns to a moderate risk designation for the virus, administrators will proceed with the transition to hybrid instruction.

As of mid-November, 63% of the district’s parents wanted their children to attend school in person, according to the superintendent. The remaining parents wanted their children to remain on fully remote instruction.

“While I am certain that shifting to full (remote) instruction is the right thing to do at this point in time, I fully understand how disappointed many of our students will be who had hoped to soon be back in school,” Tomazic said.

“I am equally aware of how disruptive this is to some of our parents as they must continue to juggle schedules and childcare arrangements.

“We have worked extremely hard to get the district to a position where it can safely open for in-school hybrid instruction, but the realities of the current situation and the strong recommendations of our health officials make shifting to in-school hybrid currently inadvisable.

“We will delay our transition until we can reopen safely and with some expectation that we can stay open,” the superintendent said.

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