MONTCLAIR, NJ -- There’s officially a plan on the table to reopen Montclair’s public schools amid the coronavirus pandemic. But it may not look the same by the time the new school year begins, administrators say.
On Friday, Superintendent Jonathan Ponds announced that a tentative plan to reopen has been developed. It will combine a mix of in-person and remote instruction when the 2020-2021 school year begins in September.
There will be a “100 percent remote” option for families that choose not to send their children to school, officials said.
Other highlights of the plan include:
Students will be placed into two groups, “Mounties” and “Bulldogs” that will allow for social distancing. The groups will rotate in-person and remote learning.
School will be in session for a four-hour day of instruction, with lunch available for grab and go at the end of the day
The district is working with partners to plan for childcare and the YMCA will continue to provide before- and after-care for our students
“We are rapidly approaching September, and I wanted to provide you with an update on how and why we have come to formulate these next steps,” Ponds wrote in a letter to the school community.
“This week all design teams met both individually and jointly to assess and construct our plans that will be submitted to the state for approval,” Ponds stated. “Our goal is to create a safe reopening format that best meets the needs of all students, staff and families.”
According to Ponds, some of those needs were expressed in the survey data in which we found that 70 percent of families prefer an in-person, hybrid model, 30 percent would like solely attend school remotely, and approximately 25 percent said they would continue to use busing.
“We understand this is a lot of information to absorb,” Ponds said. “Your feedback and insight are welcomed, and we will be sending another survey in August as we continue to reevaluate our plans.”
Ponds said the district has designed a hybrid model of in-person and remote instruction for students when the 2020-21 school year begins in September. The model will consist of A and B groups of students, the “Mounties” and the “Bulldogs,” which will allow for safe numbers in schools for social distancing purposes, he said.
School will be in session for a four-hour day of instruction with lunch available for grab and go at the end of the day.
Here’s how the schedule would work:
Mondays and Tuesdays the Mounties (Group A) will have in-person (at school) learning and the Bulldogs (Group B) will learn remotely.
Wednesdays will be a full school day of remote learning and instruction.
Thursdays and Fridays the Mounties (Group A) will learn remotely and the Bulldogs (Group B) will have in-person (at school) learning.
Children in the same family will be assigned to the same group so that they will have the same rotating schedule.
CHILDCARE, SPECIAL NEEDS
Ponds said the district is working with partners to plan for childcare, and the YMCA will continue to provide before- and after-care for our students.
“We are also exploring ways to use the YMCA for childcare and helping children with remote learning on Wednesdays as this is a day of full remote services,” Ponds said. “We continue to investigate how we can offer a full week of in-person learning for grades K -2 and our students with special needs.”
Ponds said the plan will remain “fluid” as district administrators monitor data and information from the New Jersey Governor’s Office and the New Jersey Department of Education.
“The model we have outlined was created with parents, teachers, students, community partners, school board members, custodians, transportation, and administrators weighing in,” Ponds said. “We are particularly thankful for the collaboration and critical input of the Montclair Education Association and the mayor’s office as we continue to work together on the many details needed going forward.”
DELIVERY OF INSTRUCTION
“Online learning presents challenges, and we realize that instruction implemented this past spring will need to improve substantially,” Ponds stated.
The superintendent said:
“Every student and family deserve to be engaged and supported and this means ensuring every child has a device and internet connectivity along with remote instruction in a consistent, uniform manner. Rest assured that we are focusing on the critical core subject areas to ensure that all instruction is high-quality, rigorous, and meaningful. Our staff will be addressing the impact of learning loss during the pandemic to provide academic review for all students. Additionally, we are exploring creative ways for teaching in outdoor spaces and working with our partners to incorporate electives into the schedules.”
“We are keenly aware that a virtual environment cannot fully replace an engaging, active classroom; however, our teams are committed to building rigor in our remote learning, establishing a consistent platform for delivery of that instruction, and providing our teachers with high-quality professional development so that they can appropriately use the necessary remote tools.”
SAFETY AND HEALTH
According to Ponds, the safety of staff and students will be the “overarching priorities” as the district moves forward.
“We are cleaning and sanitizing all buildings and classrooms and establishing procedures for how to take breaks safely during the day, use classroom supplies, build in hand washing time, and take temperatures before entering the school,” Ponds said.
“Students and staff will be expected to wear masks and classrooms are set up to provide six feet of separation among desks,” Ponds said. “All of our safety protocols will be in alignment with the NJDOE and the Governor’s Office guidance along with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control, the Montclair Health Department and our school physician.”
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