BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The Bridgewater-Raritan board of education recently contemplated making use of unused snow days and spring break days to handle the shuttering of schools due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
Board member Steven Singer said March 24 meeting that some community members have asked the school district to possibly change the dates for this year’s spring break, while also going to a four-day school week. Some in the community have also proposed moving spring break to later in the school year, when more will be known about travel conditions and the like.
Board member Barry Walker said he believes the district has three give-back days that have gone unused as potential snow days, and asked if they could be used for spring break, or even graduation.
Superintendent Russell Lazovick said that he is leery of “playing with the calendar,” having spoken to officials in Trenton. He also spoke of using spring break to distance the community further from COVID-19, to get students and teachers back into the buildings as quickly and as safely as possible and with (current) scheduling, allowing students more time to do their work properly.
The pandemic has closed down local school buildings, and shifted all learning online for last two weeks.
Lazovick also said he is trying to hold onto the give-back days “as long as we can, just in case.”
Walker also asked about starting high school classes at 8 a.m., instead of the usual 7:20 a.m.
Lazovick said there have been different opinions, and different schedules drafted, to allow teachers to do their preparatory work, along with “office hours” online. He also said it is important not to pull students in different directions, as some homes in the district are sharing electronic devices that are used for online learning.
“We’re not trying to change course drastically,” he said.
He added that the district’s third scholastic marking period is ending this week, and that the district is working on approaching the fourth marking period and its timetables “before we go into spring break.”
Board member A.J. Joshi asked about the introduction of new academic concepts to students, under the current remote teaching set-up, and how that is being managed.
Lazovick said administrators are looking at it as an “evolving system.” He said there is stress on high school students, regarding the traditional end of the senior year of high school, and that work is being done for more direct instruction, including recorded lessons on new concepts where students can ask questions of their teachers.
He said that that is a work in progress.
Student representative Jasmine DeLeon said that her mathematics teachers has been posting videos on a daily basis, and then gets back to students who have questions.
“It’s very helpful,” she said.
Lazovick said he’d like to have more consistent planning for the fourth marking period, and that building administrators are “jumping in.”
“It’s a full-time effort,” he said, “to extend learning.”
Board member Zachary Malek asked what is happening with Advanced Placement classes, which can be used by high school students to obtain college credit if they score highly enough.
Student representative Jessica Brookner said that 45-minute, non-multiple tests will be given at home, while DeLeon added that the college board has posted content for studies up until March.
A district administrator came online during the meeting to say that it had been posted as to what would be included on tests, and reiterated that the exams will take 45 minutes at home, with no multiple choice. Lazovick added that the district is working to make students as prepared as possible for the exams.