BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Interim Superintendent Thomas Ficarra released a statement on the district website to address reopening plans for the fall and what the district is doing to determine how that would work.
Ficarra said in the message that the governor has stated district reopening plans must account for resuming in-person instruction in some capacity.
"My immediate focus as the new interim superintendent of schools is to align the district's previously-developed plans with the governor's newly-released guidelines," he said in the statement. "We will finalize a re-entry plan for the fall and inform parents during the first week of August."
Ficarra said he is holding conversations with board of education members, administrators and teachers, with an emphasis on three themes, namely the reopening of schools while providing for the basic health and safety needs of the children; creating conditions for the social-emotional learning that engages students, rebuilds relationships and constructs a foundation for academic learning; and supporting adults and enhancing their capacity to help themselves and the students.
"As you know, school districts have an obligation to ensure the health and safety of their students and staff," he said. "To that end, we will follow The Road Back, Restart and Recovery Plan for Education as an established set of statewide health and safety standards provided to schools by the New Jersey Department of Education. These standards reflect the recommendations of the New Jersey Department of Health, and are informed by CDC guidance."
Ficarra said they will be carefully reviewing the plan throughout the summer with a focus on a number of critical areas.
In terms of general health, Ficarra said, they will have to look at protecting and supporting staff and students who are at higher risk for severe illness, while also promoting behaviors that allow for staying home when appropriate, hand hygiene and face coverings.
For the classrooms, the district will have to investigate social distancing, and allowing for students and teachers to remain 6 feet apart where possible, and modifications when this is not possible, like physical barriers between desks and face coverings. In addition, they will need to look into adequate ventilation for indoor facilities and limiting the use of shared objects.
Ficarra said transportation will be tricky, as they have to figure out how to transport students to and from school, while still maintaining social distancing, or ensuring that everyone is wearing a face mask.
Student entrances and exits will have to be monitored, with the potential for physical guides, like tape on the floors and signs on the walls to ensure people stay 6 feet apart.
Screening of staff and students will have to be established to monitor for any symptoms as they are entering the buildings in the morning.
In addition, Ficarra said, the district will need to figure out contact tracing, facility cleaning practices, meals, recess for all younger students and field trips, all of which present their own set of difficulties with social distancing and other risks.
"In closing, I want to reassure our school community that in the process of developing plans for in-person re-entry in September, we will keep a laser focus on safeguarding the health and welfare of our students and staff while striving to provide quality instruction that enables students to develop socially and emotionally," he said.
The district has also put out a survey for families to give their input as to school reopening. Click here to access the survey.
The survey will be available until July 11.
Read Ficarra's full statement at brrsd.org.