CHATHAM, NJ - At this time, the Chatham school district is awaiting guidelines from the state health department - likely coming Friday - about the reopening of school in the fall.
But it was clear at the regular meeting of the Chatham Board of Education on Monday night in the CHS cafeteria that there will be mandated safety changes coming in response to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Chatham Superintendent Michael LaSusa anticipates daily temperature screenings, the elimination of cafeteria use for lunches and shorter school hours as part of the guidelines that are coming soon.
"I think it's a safe assumption that there we'll have some type of health screening on a daily basis for all staff and students," LaSusa said. "It looks like there will be some degree of social distancing. It gets complicated. That's why we're waiting for the guidelines."
LaSusa is looking into options for equipment that will measure the temperatures of students and staff and the most efficient way to get that done as they enter school.
LaSusa also talked about the "elimination" of the lunch period since there no longer will be the social gathering of students in the cafeteria. That would shorten the school day and in one scenario allow for students to sustain themselves with snacks until a dismissal near lunchtime.
Board member Michelle Clark offered that the district should prepare now for the purchase of PPE (Personal Protection Equipment). If face coverings are required, the district could be purchasing "tens of thousands" of masks.
Board member Michael Ryan said that transportation costs to the district could "triple" since students will no longer be riding in a packed bus.
In other business, the board briefly discussed strategy for school funding in anticipation of a likely reduction in state aid. Gov. Phil Murphy would likely make reductions known in August, prior to the deadline for the state budget to be passed in September. Murphy could possibly sign legislation that allows districts to make up shortages by using capital reserve funds. According to Peter Daquila, business administrator/secretary for the BOE, the district has approximately $750,000 in capital reserves.
Two reports on "Trends in Discipline" were presented to the board. CHS Assistant Principal Lori Gironda reported that vaping was "on the decline" due to automatic one-day suspensions and the propping open of restroom doors, which acted as a deterrent.
Gironda said that of the 1,342 students in the high school, there were 157 incidents that required disciplinary action committed by 103 students. Of that number, 31 percent were tied to 9th-Grade students. Overall, the ratio of disciplinary action by gender was 70 percent male and 30 percent female.
Anthony Giaconia, CMS assistant principal/bullying specialist, reported that there is a "downward trend" in bullying incidents at the middle school. Increased training and speaking to parents at Back to School Night were two positive factors attributed to the downward trend.