ROXBURY, NJ — A plan that allows a limited return to classrooms by Roxbury students in September was approved Thursday by the township school board.
The board, meeting virtually through WebEx, endorsed the back-to-school plan put forth two weeks ago by Roxbury Schools Superintendent Loretta Radulic. The board had tabled action on the plan at its July 27 meeting because several members wanted more time to read the document.
While some expressed concerns Thursday about aspects of the plan — particularly its reliance on using a parental honor system instead of temperature checks to screen students for COVID-19 — all 10 board members voted for it. All also praised Radulic and her staff for the effort put into the complex matter.
“What I applaud is the actual ability of the administration to make a decision in this very, very difficult time,” said Roxbury School Board Member Kathy Purcell. “I find that probably one of the most important parts of leadership is actually making a decision. It’s not always the best decision. Whether it’s good or bad, it’s still a decision. And this is really going to be a very difficult path; to prove that we are doing the right thing until we see the outcome of this.”
A Mixed Bag of Options
The plan, which Radulic stressed is subject to change, calls for giving parents the option of having their children continue with remote, at-home, instruction when school begins. She said she is hoping to have the first day for students be Sept. 8, with staff coming in during the prior week to prepare.
Roxbury students were taught via remote instruction from mid-March through the end of the school year due to the closure of all school buildings when the COVID-19 crisis peaked.
But the plan also allows for some in-classroom teaching. While all students will receive remote instruction on Mondays, those who want to go to school will be able to do with four hours of in-classroom instruction two days each week.
Details of the reopening plan, along with an FAQ, can be found on the school district’s website here.
“Most districts, according to what I’ve seen in the news in the last day or two, are submitting plans very similar to ours: Hybrid plans consisting of alternate days. And many of them are half-days,” said Roxbury School Board President Carol Scheneck.
Radulic said it is vital that parents log-on to their children’s Genesis Parent Portal accounts and complete the form found in the Forms section called “2020-2021 School Year Questionnaire.” On that form, due July 31, parents must tell the district whether their children will be taking the all-remote option or the partial in-classroom option. Parents can also choose to homeschool.
Radulic acknowledged that parents, students and educators are facing unprecedented uncertainty due to the coronavirus. She warned that plans made today are very likely to require alteration in the future.
“Throughout the upcoming year, the ground will continue to shift, shake and possibly crumble below our feet at any moment, causing us to step in a new direction,” said the superintendent. “The tremors will not end any time soon and will impact our footing and our direction throughout the upcoming school year.”
Roxbury School Board Member Joseph Bocchino IV — noting he is a teacher and father of a child going into kindergarten — voiced similar thoughts.
“No one, in their wildest dreams, would have ever imagined that this would be occurring right now,” he said. “The hardest thing right now is trying to make a decision for your child … It’s very rough right now to figure out what’s best ... But at the end of the day, everyone out there, you’re going to be making the best choice for your child.”
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