BERNARDS TOWNSHIP, NJ — Schools had only been back in person for a few days, but parents wanted to know when fulltime instruction for everyone would be back in Bernards Township schools.
The answer at Monday’s Board of Education meeting: Not soon.
There is no timetable to resume classes in buildings for all students at one time, Superintendent Nick Markarian said. State rules forbid it until the governor revises social distancing rules, he said.
Markarian said he had checked with the Somerset County Executive Superintendent of Schools, Roger A. Jinks, who said he was bound to follow the state guidance document on COVID-19 pandemic response.
Other scheduling questions were news items, too.
School buildings will all be closed on Election Day on Nov. 3, but learning will go on over computers from home, said Markarian.
He said the state government has directed all schools to be closed on Nov. 3. But, if education goes on virtually, the day will count toward the minimum 180 days of instruction all school districts must offer in a year.
That will affect students in all grades who are in the A group and have chosen to attend school for at least two days a week, and remotely for the others.
Board member Robin McKeon reinforced a parent’s comment that wondered what made Election Day procedures different from a snow day. Schools have been told they cannot simply declare a snow day and have all students educated virtually to count to the 180-day standard.
One parent asked the school district to look at the calendar for November and note that there will be more in-person school days for the A group than the other half – by a margin of eight days to four. That’s because of the NJEA convention and Thanksgiving holiday, which take two Thursdays and two Fridays away from instruction.
Markarian said the district has been steadfast in keeping middle and high school students adhering to a Monday-Tuesday building attendance for the A group, and Thursday-Friday for the B. (Wednesdays are virtual instruction for all 6-12 graders.)
On the elementary level, the A and B groups follow a similar Monday-Tuesday and Thursday-Friday schedule, with the two groups alternating coming to school on Wednesdays.
He said over the course of the year the number of days will balance out.
For now, Board of Education meetings will continue to be held virtually. One parent said she wanted meetings to be held in person as soon as possible, but current state rules limit gatherings in public buildings to no more than 25 people. Interestingly, Markarian noted, far more people have logged onto school board meetings on their computers. In two meetings in September as many as more than 700 watchers were logged onto the Livestream at various times.
Parents who may want to change the type of instruction their children should follow a schedule giving advance notice, Markarian said. For middle and high school students, that would be three weeks prior to the start of the marking period. That would be Oct. 22. For elementary grades, give notice three weeks before the trimester changes, or Nov. 13.
About two-thirds of students have opted for the “blended Learning” model, in which they attend classes at their school for at least two days a week.
Markarian continued to emphasize the need for parents to fill out and submit daily forms, found in the school’s Genesis reporting system. They are used for attendance and for daily COVID-19 temperature tests and symptom reporting. An absence reporting form should be returned to the school even for remote learning students, and for in-school students who may choose to stay at home for health reasons but participate virtually.