HACKENSACK, N.J. — The Hackensack School District is in the final stages of planning its reopening on September 3, Superintendent Robert Sanchez announced on the district website Wednesday.
Using the New Jersey Department of Education’s The Road Back: Restart and Recovery Plan, the district is planning to welcome its students back in three phases — the first of which will allow for a hybrid of in-person and virtual learning as students adapt to the transition into full-time in-person learning once again. All New Jersey students were homeschooled back in March when the World Health Organization labeled the current coronavirus health crisis a pandemic and Governor Murphy imposed a months-long lockdown. Since then, students have adjusted to online learning, something they will continue in September as they inch their way back into a school environment.
Phase 1 is slated to last for six weeks beginning September 1 through October 16. In this time, half the student body will be allowed in the schools at one time with two cohorts of students who will rotate in-person and virtual learning on certain half-days they are assigned from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. daily. Only 10 students will be allowed in a classroom at a time. Since there won’t be a lunchtime in a cafeteria setting, breakfast will be served in the classroom and grab-and-go lunches upon dismissal. While it is the intention of the administration to have siblings synchronized in the same cohort during rotation, the arrangement isn’t possible in all situations, Sanchez said.
Phase two is slated for October 19 to November 27. While the protocol of half the student body will continue during this phase in each school, modifications will be made to student schedules. In addition, in-person instruction will expand to full days. Breakfast and lunch will be served at school. Phase three is slated to take place from November 30 to January 15. At this time, schedules will be modified and capacity will be increased depending upon the most recent Covid-19 data.
Throughout each phase, health and safety protocols including social distancing, the requirement of face coverings, and the encouragement of frequent hand washing will be observed, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. Accommodations will be made for those students whose medical conditions may prevent them from wearing a face covering. Hand sanitizing stations will be installed in each classroom. Enhanced cleaning protocols will include increased HVAC systems inspections and filter changes. Tape on school floors will mark where students should stand while in the hallways and sidewalks to remind them to stay the state-required six-feet apart. Meal service will continue for qualified families in need of assistance.
Parents are asked to check for signs of illness prior to sending their children to school; students and staff will be screened for symptoms of Covid-19 upon arrival. The school administration is currently developing policies for daily screenings of staff and students in addition to contact tracing. Students in Grades 3 through 12 are being emailed a survey for their input on the district’s forthcoming reopening, and more information will be available at the school board’s next meeting on August 17.