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Freehold Borough school board makes preparations for students’ return

FREEHOLD – As administrators in the Freehold Borough K-8 School District prepare to welcome students back for in-person instruction in March, the Board of Education has taken action to assist in the reopening of the district’s buildings.

Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the district’s students have been receiving instruction remotely during the 2020-21 school year. Freehold Borough’s students last received in-person instruction in March 2020. The schools were closed in early March 2020 when the pandemic struck New Jersey.

Earlier this month, board members approved an updated restart and re-entry plan that set March 1 as the return date for students at the Park Avenue Elementary School, the Freehold Learning Center elementary school and the Freehold Intermediate School.

Board members have approved a contract with JDC Energy Services for the integration of a bipolar ionization system at the district’s facilities. The installation of the equipment will cost $132,500, according to district administrators.

The bipolar ionization system is an authorized alternative for filtering the district’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.

The HVAC filtering systems were one factor that prevented administrators from physically reopening the buildings to students because those systems were not at the higher grade required by the state; the bipolar ionization system is intended to ensure the schools are properly filtered.

To finance the project, the board requested the approval of a $74,734 withdrawal from the district’s capital reserve fund. According to district administrators, the $74,734 withdrawal will be used with a $57,766 withdrawal that was approved in late 2020 to reach the $132,500 total.

The Freehold Borough school district has two sites – the Freehold Learning Center on Dutch Lane Road, and the Park Avenue Complex which houses the Park Avenue Elementary School and the Freehold Intermediate School. The bipolar ionization system will be installed at both sites.

Board members also purchased 400 student desk barriers from Sandbox Marketing. The desk barriers cost $13,360, which was appropriated through funding received from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Finally, the board entered into an agreement with Bayshore Homecare Pharmacy, Holmdel, to provide voluntary coronavirus testing for students and staff members who plan to return for in-person instruction. The testing will take place at the Park Avenue Complex from Feb. 25-28.

According to district administrators, there will be no fee for the testing and health insurance is not required to be tested. The board will pay $110 to Bayshore Homecare Pharmacy for each test that is performed on a patient who does not have health insurance.

Administrators said the district will employ a hybrid schedule of in-person instruction and remote instruction for students who physically return to school. Students whose parents select the hybrid schedule will receive four days of in-person instruction on a half-day schedule and one day of remote instruction each week.

Parents will retain the option to have their children remain on a fully remote instructional schedule if they do not want their youngsters to attend school in person.

On the four days of in-person instruction, students will attend their core courses of English language arts, math, science and social studies. They will also have a remote online check-in with their teachers toward the end of the school day, according to district administrators.

Administrators said students will attend their related courses of physical education, health, art, music, Spanish and technology during their day of remote instruction.

According to district administrators, breakfast will be offered in school and lunch will be provided for children to “grab and go.”

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