CAMDEN, NJ — Roughly a week has elapsed since Camden schools started full-remote classes — one of over 260 districts in New Jersey opting to teach solely online to begin the academic year. 

Superintendent Karina McCombs says the viability of a hybrid learning plan — as well as other alternatives — will be assessed at the start of 2021.

But students and parents are still becoming accustomed to the current format.

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“Everyone’s just getting used to this, so I haven’t heard many complaints from parents. It’s been more so people trying to figure this all out,” Keith Benson, President of the Camden Education Association (CEA), told TAPinto Camden. 

Benson, often a stern critic of the district, says he hopes to see a continued push from school leaders to communicate with parents and guardians as they face a series of new challenges — including seeking childcare in some cases.

“We’d like a remote care plan to be instituted where our district allows parents to drop children off and go on about their business. I can’t say I have details on that, how close or far we are from but I know it’s been brought up,” Benson said. ”Kids can have lodging for their safety...somewhere to log in and receive guided help with their schoolwork.”

Last week, McCombs told families, “We recognize that this ‘new normal’ may be a stressful time for some of our students and families; however, the district is committed to providing resources to help navigate the remote learning period.”

With its 93-page reopening plan receiving final approval from Gov. Phil Murphy at the start of September, the Camden district not only established its virtual start but prepares to embark on a potential hybrid plan come winter. 

Here are some takeaways from the plan provided to TAPinto by the CCSD:

How will Family Operations Coordinators (FOCs) do their job?

  • Communicate regularly and frequently with parents/guardians through email, text, phone, and social media postings, to connect help connect families to teachers, other staff, or to flag truancy (send school messenger text)

  • Help respond to the ​Family Remote Support Survey​, which will be conducted every 6 weeks to gain feedback from parents on the status of the full remote implementation. FOCs can also ​send quick polls via school messenger.

  • Work in conjunction with Sandra Cintron to ensure that incoming students who are homeless/displaced have access to technology/internet, engage with families to promote participation in online learning and keep a regular schedule/routine.

  • Support with registration and household income surveys

  • Provide virtual bridge visits (home visits)/check-ins with families. We want every bridge visit educator, student, and family to experience the profound benefits that come from relational-virtual home visits.

What is the remote-learning grading policy?

During remote learning, we will follow the CCSD grading policy. Flexibility will be provided to families who may experience challenges due to COVID-19 issues, internet connectivity, or other issues as deemed appropriate by school administration. Additionally, flexibility will be provided as deemed necessary on a case by case basis regarding due dates for assignments. 

During remote learning, formal report card conferences will be held virtually utilizing Academic Parent Teacher Team (APTT) and/or student-led APTT. Report cards and interim progress reports will be available online via the Genesis Parent Portal.

What will the shift from remote-only to a hybrid of in-person/remote look like?

One to two months before the start of hybrid

  • Survey families about which students will opt out for full remote

  • Survey staff for updates on accommodations

  • Ensure PPE is available

Three weeks before the start of hybrid

  • Determine in-person staff and remote staff

  • Determine student cohorts

  • Reassign student schedules & staff responsibilities

  • Ensure buildings are operational for hybrid

Two weeks before the start of hybrid

  • Walkthrough of buildings (isolation rooms, ventilation, etc.)

  • Staff goes into building to set up classrooms

One week before the start of hybrid

  • Professional Development days (TBD based on the start of hybrid)

  • Update Google Classrooms based on changes in classroom rosters

  • Update Genesis Information System

  • Teachers develop plans for the first week of hybrid teaching (introductions, workflow, schedules,
    etc.)

  • Teachers hold Greet and Meet with families before transition to hybrid begin

If hybrid learning starts, how do students enter and exit the building/ classroom?

  • Marking on the hallways to maintain the distance-- color tap to show traffic going in the direction.

  • Dismissal will be facilitated by announcement one class at a time, called down by the main office

  • HS entrance-- consider entering alphabetical, or homeroom.

Where would PPE materials be stored in schools?

District-wide PPE will be stored in custodial storage within each building. Nurse specific materials will be stored by the nurse in the space they deem necessary. (Note: staff should not seek PPE from the nurse - they would receive it via the school wide allotment)

How will students travel to the nurse if they are showing symptoms?

Floating certified school nurses will need to be hired/available to cover schools without a school nurse on site due to needed COVID accommodations, personal/sick days, etc.

The student’s teacher will call the nurses' office. If the student needs an escort to the nurses office, they should contact the main office. If applicable Security will be notified and escort the student directly to the nurse (likely outside the office and towards the isolation room)​.

What building procedures will need to be in place for in-person learning?

Buildings will need to be cleaned/sanitized throughout the day and at night. Isolation rooms with monitor/chaperone for students exhibiting COVID symptoms. 

Installation of proper HVAC filtration, hand sanitizing stations with hand hygiene instructions, arrows and signs that provide directions for walking in hallways, spots or squares on floors to help with social distancing.

For rooms without ventilation systems, we will use increase airflow by using fans and open windows, exploring the feasibility of installation of building exhaust systems for buildings with classrooms/offices/nurse offices without windows/proper ventilation or access to air.

What will the plan be for classroom furniture?

All classroom furniture​ ​will need to be arranged so students are seated 6 feet apart, desks should all face the same direction (not towards one another), furniture will need to be separate seating not group seating. Carpets, bean bags, stuffed animals will need to be removed from all classrooms.

  • Students will need to have space provided between personal belongings such as coats/jackets/book bags

  • Will need to be cleaned/disinfected often

  • Consider having outside learning areas to minimize students being in the building all day

In a hybrid learning model, will it ever be necessary to close buildings?

Each school leader should create an in-house "Pandemic Response Team" to oversee each school’s implementation of the district’s reopening plan, particularly health and safety measures in their building. 

​If there is an increased number of students/staff who are experiencing symptoms or who have been identified as COVID positive then school may need to close. Follow CDC guidelines.

Read the CCSD's full plan by clicking here.

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