BARNEGAT, NJ - The Barnegat School District has wasted no time in developing reopening plans for the 2020-2021 school year. Governor Phil Murphy announced in late June that New Jersey schools would reopen for in-person instruction in September. District leaders set up a task force that has already come up with preliminary plans to facilitate learning amid coronavirus concerns.

One option includes a hybrid model consisting of two days of in-classroom instruction and two Remote Extension Activity Days (READ). On Fridays, all students would participate in virtual learning. The second alternative calls for five days of virtual learning when school resumes in September.

Students participating in the hybrid model will be divided into two groups.  One group will receive in-person instruction on Mondays and Wednesdays. The second one will come to school on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The district is working out the logistics as far as dividing the groups – necessary to keep class sizes down for social distancing purposes.

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“We are committed to keeping siblings in the same group,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian Latwis. “We know how important this is to families, especially those with working parents.”

The process included two different surveys to both Barnegat families and staff members. According to Latwis, approximately 65 percent of families responded to the survey regarding their preferences regarding the start of the new school year. An overwhelming majority said they planned to send their students to school. Many families indicated they planned to provide their own transportation.

Safety represents a critical component of the proposed plan with strict facilities cleaning guidelines. The district is working out a protocol regarding health screenings and protocols. Anyone who has a temperature of over 100.4 will be required to go home and wait in quarantine until their ride arrives.

The cafeteria will not be used as a dining area and may be used to isolate anyone who may be ill. Staff members in the quarantine area will be supplied with appropriate PPE.

Students and teachers will be required to wear masks in circumstances when they are unable to social distance. Face shields will also be supplied in some cases.

“The reason that staff is required to wear masks is that they’re walking around the room,” Latwis explained. “They’re not socially distanced. When they are at the head of the classroom and away from anyone else, they don’t have the same issue.”

Failure to comply with masking rules will have consequences. While students will not be suspended, they may be required to move to virtual learning for an unspecified time period. Depending on the circumstances, a verbal warning could suffice for the initial refusal.  Some students will be exempt from wearing masks by way of a note from a physician.

Faculty and staff cannot just opt out of coming into school. They will need to supply a medical note approved by the district’s doctor.  Their time off will fall under FMLA guidelines.

A positive COVID-19 test of a student, faculty member, or staff on a bus, in a classroom, or on school property could result in a return to full virtual instruction.  The district would make the determination as to whether individual classrooms or schools would make the change.  The district as a whole could move to virtual learning during a quarantine period.

The Board of Education will review and vote on the proposed reopening plan at its July 28th meeting. If it is approved, it will be rolled out to families the following day.

With few exceptions, the vast majority of the task members involved in the reopening are volunteers who have already met on multiple occasions.  While some district members are 12-month employees, many are not. At today’s meeting, approximately fifty teachers, staff members, and parents met with administrators to work out the intricacies of the reopening plan.

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