BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The Bridgewater-Raritan board of education has gone remote.
The school board held its first remote meeting March 24, after the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic became widespread in America. Eight of the nine board members took part, all through the internet via YouTube, logging in from home. T
Schools in both municipalities have been closed in recent weeks as part of the social distancing response to COVID-19, with teachers and students having taken to distance learning to complete their lessons, at least through spring break.
The meeting began with the two student representatives giving their typical meeting report, which was shorter than usual as there have been no school sports, clubs or activities taking place since the buildings were closed.
Student representative Jasmine DeLeon said that students hve had different experiences so far regarding distance learning. Some have liked it, while others have not.
“Some are saying it’s too much work,” she told the board.
Student representative Jessica Brookner said there is “no normal structure of the school day,” and that there are feelings among some students of being overwhelmed.
“We understand the administration is focused on health and learning,” said DeLeon.
Brookner said she and others have spoken with Bridgewater-Raritan Regional High School Principal Charles Ezell, ostensibly about the distance learning situation, and that all are “working to make the best of it.”
Superintendent Russell Lazovick said the district is being kept appraised of what is going on by administrators.
“We’re communicating daily,” he said. “This (board meeting) is our Tuesday communication.”
He spoke of three main concentrations at the present time – distance learning, medical reporting and community action.
Regarding distance learning, with students and teachers communicating and working by computer as opposed to in-person, he explained that district staff had done the “unthinkable” two weeks prior in setting everything up.
He added that the community has generally been positive about the switch to computerized learning, although there have already been suggestions on how to make it better.
“We know it’s far from perfect,” said Lazovick. “We can’t do it overnight, but we’re finding ways to work together.”
He thanked everyone who has been involved, too numerous to be named individually, but included drivers, office support staff and many others. He also thanked association leadership for its aid, along with the district’s students.
“Students at all levels have stepped up,” said Lazovick. “Thank you, specifically to them.”
He said he understands that normalcy has been upended by the coronavirus threat, and he also thanked families in the district for their efforts, even though he is sure they still have many questions.
“We’re trying to find the right answers,” he explained, as the district keeps trying to move forward.
He said the daily communications will continue, and asked community members to please utilize the distance learning page on the district’s website at brrsd.org
, along with the district’s Twitter feed.
“This situation will not stop our learning, or break our spirit,” Lazovick said.
On the matter of medical reporting, he explained that the district has legal constraints in reporting health information to the county and other governmental agencies, and that it is not releasing anyone’s personal medical information publicly.
“We’re still locked down as a community,” he admitted, while adding it is possible that some local individuals might have been exposed to the coronavirus.
Concerning community action, Lazovick said that Gov. Phil Murphy has said it is no time to panic, but to practice social distancing and stay home as much as possible in order to keep the virus from spreading.
“We must take this seriously, and work together,” Lazovick said. “Please check your daily communications, and please stay safe.”
School president Jackie Barlow thanked Bridgewater-Raritan for "acting as a village" to get through this. She said the district has faced an immense challenge in a short amount of time, and there might still be some issues regarding the distribution of Chromebook laptop computers, but that they will be handled in time, and effectively.
She also thanked Lazovick and his staff for all their efforts.
She added that positive comments have been posted on social media, about how the district has displayed “true leadership in crisis,” and that others have been “impressed with what has been done.” She also asked the community to please follow guidelines to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
“Try to stay happy and healthy,” said Barlow, who also asked district and community members to look for the positive in things, and to be there for each other.
In looking ahead, school board vice president Jill Gladstone said there will be a report at the next meeting on board goals. She also said that the calendar for the 2020-2021 school year has already been completed, but that work has to be done on the 2021-2022 school year calendar.
Gladstone said the superintendent search committee has met with Jane Kershner, of the New Jersey Schools Boards Association, and that a draft calendar has been made for a timeline to find a new superintendent for the district, as Lazovick will be leaving Bridgewater-Raritan on July 1 to become principal at Ridge High School.
“We’re still going forward,” said Gladstone, who added it will be another week or two before a formal advertisement for the position is released.
She said a calendar will soon be put out by the superintendent search committee, although things have been slowed down a little due to COVID-19.