WAYNE, NJ – Phase III of the Wayne School District’s Reopening Plan was discussed at Thursday night’s Board of Education meeting. The Superintendent, Dr. Mark Toback presented the recommended plan for Wayne schools to remain virtual until the BOE revisits the decision during the February 11 BOE meeting.
His presentation began with the COVID numbers for the state and locally.
“We’re definitely experiencing a bad time when it comes to COVID,” said Toback. “We have consulted with our infectious disease expert, and he said that we are solidly in a bad situation and will remain in a bad situation for some time, until the vaccine gets a hold sometime in the next few months.”
Toback reported that the situation in the schools “are not good.” He then laid out five other points:
- More and more students are switching to remote. The Superintendent showed a graphic in his presentation that showed that 61% of Wayne Hills students and 49% of Wayne Valley students are now going remote. While the three middle schools are 31%, 37% and 42% remote.
- Many students who attend school do not fill out their health screening. This means that school nurses and administrators spend a lot of time tracking down students. Toback called it “a big issue.”
- Staffing hotspots. These are schools “where there is already an inability to cover teacher absences.” On the list were
- Packanack Lake Elementary
- John F Kennedy Elementary
- Lafayette Elementary
- Pines Lake Elementary and
- Theunis Dey Elementary.
- Winter sports. Toback mentioned a fencing team that is completely quarantined and two basketball teams that are waiting for results.
- Siblings. “There is an impact at home and across the District when it comes to siblings.
The official recommendation of the Administration for Phase III:
- Maintain a remote model of instruction and closely monitor conditions each week.
- Make a decision about Phase IV at the February 11 BOE meeting.
- Pre-K, elementary and middle school students will continue with their current schedules
- Merging of High School cohorts will begin on January 19.
Prior to the BOE vote on accepting the Administration's recommendation, the public had a chance to speak. Many parents and employees of the Wayne School District spoke up and without exception every district employee who called in spoke in favor of the school remaining virtual, while the parents came down on both sides, with many not agreeing, using terms such as “unacceptable” and “a disgrace” that the school doors will remain closed.
For some parents, it was about the mental health of their kids and the need to socialize. For some it was about having to work and having to pay to have their kids watched which allows them to keep their jobs.
A couple of parents talked about “looking at the reality of the situation,” which was prolonged virtual learning, and asked the Board to make the commitment to go all remote, but make it full time, not half-time and with no “Wasteful Wednesdays.”
Eileen Domico expressed her concern that the students were going to fall behind because they are trying to “learn a year’s worth of material, in a year’s worth of half days.”
One student, Sara Gaber called in and gave a student’s perspective, saying that there is no sense of normalcy at school.
In a wavering, emotional voice, she said, “I've had to sit in an auditorium for two periods, six-feet away from all my classmates and not being able to talk to them and not being able to do anything because they can't hear me through the mask and the fan that's going on. We have to sit in a freezing cold classroom, because the windows are all open. it's upsetting. It doesn't really matter whether you're six-feet away from someone or six-miles away. The experience is still the same.”
After public comments, BOE Trustee, Eileen Albanese said “If the goal is to get our teachers vaccinated to get everyone back into school, then we also have to be realistic that that's not happening in the next four weeks.” She called upon the Administration to come up with an improved plan for remote learning.
Albanese also mentioned that the BOE should make it a priority to get Wayne’s teachers vaccinated as soon as possible. “It should be a tremendous priority,” she said.
The Board voted to accept the Phase III Reopening recommendation from the Administration and school will remain virtual until at least February 12.