SPOTSWOOD, NJ - At a special meeting of the Spotswood Board of Education on Thursday, the board approved two models of instruction for the 1,600 plus Spotswood School District's return to school on September 2 based upon the recommendation of Spotswood Superintendent Graham Peabody. The first model of instruction is completely virtual for the school district that includes four schools for the initial marking period for the 2020-21 academic year and is the one the district intends to open the school year with. Spotswood's virtual model has the district reassessing the COVID-19 situation impacting the Garden State each marking period with the possibility of a hybrid return with students following a rotating schedule or a full return to in-person learning depending on the conditions.
Spotswood School District's Schoenly School caters to 220 students in grades pre-kindergarten to first grade while its Appleby School has 363 students in grades two through fifth. The Memorial Middle School houses 344 sixth, seventh and eighth grade students according to enrollment information released by the district in its Return to School Survey. The student body of Schoenly, Appleby and Memorial is made up of students from Spotswood and Helmetta. Spotswood High School has the largest population of students with 706. Milltown students join Spotswood and Helmetta students for the ninth through 12th grade secondary school.
Results of the Return to School Survey returned by 69 percent of parents in the Spotswood School District, indicated that a majority wanted their children to go back to school in September with a hybrid model that included in-person and virtual instruction. The hybrid model preferred by parents is the second approved by the Spotswood Board of Education on July 30. In this model, Spotswood School District students would have part-time virtual and in-person instruction on an A-A-V-B-B schedule. Both models of instruction include live instruction, social interaction, virtual office hours for teachers, daily attendance, daily work and access to parental resources. Unlike in the spring when the district went on remote learning when the coronavirus pandemic hit New Jersey, students will have a daily timed schedule to follow when working virtually at home instead of a 24-hour period to log in and complete assigned work.
About 250 people tuned in to the virtual meeting of the Spotswood Board of Education on Thursday that began at 6 p.m. Following the presentation of the two models of instruction, participants were allowed to comment or ask questions. The question and answer portion was lengthy with many parents asking for specifics about the proposed models of instruction.
"In order to provide the needed flexibility to navigate the reality of a COVID-19 world, the Board of Education approved two models of instruction: a fully virtual model and a hybrid model. With that said, while continuing to comply with State guidance, on September 2, it is our intent to utilize our full virtual model whilecontinually assessing our ability to transition to our hybrid model as soon as possible," Peabody explained in a letter released to Spotswood School District parents on Friday, July 31.
"While we know this plan will cause angst for some of our families, it remains our commitment to provide answers to your questions and solutions to your needs," Peabody continued. "Therefore, over the next month, our administrative team will continue to focus on finding more adequate solutions to your expressed concerns connected to virtual learning, including refinements to our instructional practice, increased opportunity for socialization, and provisions for child care."
The Spotswood School District's restart plan included district and building committees comprised of administrators, teachers and parents. Virtual committee and subcommittee meetings have been taking place all summer in order to plan for the reopening of the district in September. Spotswood School District students are set to return on Wednesday, September 2. The Spotswood School District staff is scheduled to return on Monday, August 31.
A regular meeting of the Spotswood Board of Education is on tap for Tuesday, August 18 at 7 p.m. Spotswood Board of Education meetings have been virtual since mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic. Access information for the virtual BOE meetings are typically released the day before through a mass email to Spotswood School District parents. A complete copy of the PowerPoint presentation detailing the two models of instruction for the Spotswood School District is available online.