WESTFIELD, NJ — School officials on Monday offered the public its first look at the district’s plan for reopening in the fall, detailing a schedule for students to come into buildings on alternating days.
Superintendent Margaret Dolan at a virtual school board meeting held at noon said students in grades 6-12 would be split into two groups with one group coming into physical school buildings for four-hour days on Mondays and Thursdays and another group coming into the schools for four-hour days Tuesdays and Fridays. Wednesday would be a virtual day for all students, Dolan said.
“The classes, the lessons will be livestreamed for the students who are home,” Dolan said. Those students, she said, would log into classes at the beginning of each day and at the beginning of each class. Teachers would provide office hours in the afternoons, she said.
The schedule for students in grades K-5, Dolan said, would follow a similar pattern except that instead of having fully remote learning on Wednesdays, the two groups of students — which the district is referring to as “A” and “B” groups — would alternate remote and in person learning every other Wednesday.
“What we heard from parents and teachers actually is that a lot of our younger students had more difficulty with the distance learning than our older students,” Dolan said. “So, what our plan is as of now is to have that Wednesday be a flip — an alternative day.”
The district decided on the abbreviated days of in-person learning instead of full days because public health experts advised of the danger of having students eating lunch in school, she said.
“We heard from public health perhaps the highest risk activity would be students eating lunch whether in a classroom or in a cafeteria,” Dolan said.
The availability of in-person learning, she said, remains contingent of the state allowing such.
“All school districts are awaiting guidance from public health officials and the governor as to if we can open with a hybrid plan,” Dolan said. In keeping with Gov. Phil Murphy’s directive to provide options for remote learning, all students will be eligible for such, officials said.
The district’s 57-page Restart and Recovery Plan includes the following provisions:
- Movement of students throughout the building will be minimized by establishing small cohorts of students who remain in one classroom at the elementary level and in as few classrooms as possible at the secondary level.
- Student desks and seating in classrooms, cafeterias, multi-purpose rooms, and other spaces will be placed 6 feet apart.
- Seating will be arranged such that individuals will be facing the same direction, when possible.
- When social distancing is not possible, physical barriers and other measures will be utilized to maintain safety.
- Face coverings are required for staff and students while in the building, unless it will inhibit an individual’s health as documented by a physician.
- All instructional and non-instructional rooms in schools and district facilities must comply with social distancing standards to the maximum extent practicable.
- HVAC systems have a fresh air component to their operation. All filters for air conditioning units are maintained as per manufacturers’ recommendations based on the type of equipment.
- Schools will require students to wash hands for a least 20 seconds at regular intervals during the school day.
- If washing with soap and water is not possible, use of an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol) is recommended.
- Hand sanitizing stations will be provided in multiple locations in every building.
- Instructional and non-instructional materials and supplies will not be shared (i.e. math manipulatives, writing implements, art supplies).
- Lockers will not be used at any school.
- Schedules will accommodate limited mixing or passing of students in common areas such as hallways and bathrooms.
- EPA-registered disposable wipes or spray bottles will be provided to each classroom for cleaning commonly used surfaces including phones, smart boards, keyboards, remotes and computers.
The school board on Monday also approved 27 pages of policies related to coronavirus.
Among the provisions detailed in those policies are the following:
- Subscription busing will not be available for the 2020-2021 academic year.
- Visitors will not be permitted.
- Parents will be required to take their children’s temperature within one hour of the start of school then enter the reading into a daily intake forum with additional COVID-19 symptom questions.
- Staff must provide spot temperature checks of students.
- Any student with a temperature equal or greater than 100 degrees will be placed in an isolation area and an emergency contact notified to come for the student within 30 minutes.
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