BELMAR, NJ — Belmar Elementary School’s hybrid-learning students are back in the classroom four days a week, beginning today, September 28. 

Some 332 students who have been divided into two groups attending two half-day sessions a week will now attend in-person classes together on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays — also on a half-day basis with staggered arrival and dismissal times, according to the next phase of the school’s Restart and Recovery Plan.

Remote instruction for these students has been reduced from three days to Wednesdays only, so that school facilities can undergo a “deep cleaning” during that time, under the plan, which was developed in response to the coronavirus health crisis. 

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The remaining 128 full-remote students will continue learning from home until November 12, which marks the end of the first marking period. At that point, they will be given the option to return to the classroom, school officials said.  

Some 70 percent of the pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade student body opted for its hybrid learning plan since the school opened on September 9.

READ MORE: Belmar Elementary School to Start New Year on September 9 with Hybrid Learning for Most Students

“The opening been going very well, the arrivals and dismissals very smoothly,” School Superintendent David Hallman told the Belmar Board of Education at its September 24 meeting. “We’re ready to take the next step … As long as things stay the way they are, we’ll go to five days (of in-person instruction) on October 12.”

Two days before the school board meeting, BES parents received a letter from the school administration announcing the move to the next phase of the reopening plan and detailing what lies ahead after that. 

“Once we evaluate in-person learning for five days a week, we will then consider the possibility of increasing the length of our student day,” states the letter from Hallman, School Principal Sarah Wilton and Supervisor of Special Services Lauren Vasile. “Please know that this plan is fluid and can change depending on the current state and local guidelines. We will continue to keep you updated with any changes to the plan.”

Hallman credited the school’s teaching staff with helping to make the restart plan work, particularly their efforts to livestream classroom instruction to students who are learning from home.

“It’s very impressive what our teachers are doing,” he said, adding that other districts have been observing their efforts as a model for real-time, virtual instruction.

In order to maintain a “safe environment” for all students, the school has equipped student desks with plastic partitions — since six feet of social distancing between students may be difficult to maintain in some classrooms once both groups of students are in class together, according to school officials. In addition, teachers are utilizing portable desks with wheels, which save space and allow them to get to each classroom so that students can remain in one place. 

During the Lake Como Board of Education meeting also held on September 24, Michael Bardsley, who serves as school business administrator for both Lake Como and Belmar, provided board members with a similar update.

“I’m excited we’re starting to bring (students) back and gradually getting back to five days a week,” he said. “It’s not the same without them.”

Bardsley also said that through the end of 2020, free hot meals are being provided to all students each school day through the state’s school lunch program.

In other news, he reported that ongoing renovations to the school’s auditorium should be completed on schedule in November.  The improvement project is part of the $9.7 million capital improvement plan approved by voters in March.

READ MORE: Belmar School Board Awards $1.56 Million Contract for Auditorium Upgrades at Belmar Elementary

Click here for the entire BES Restart and Recovery Plan.

For more information, email the school district at restart@belmar.k12.nj.us

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