FLEMINGTON, NJ - Classes will look much different for the district’s 2,992 pre-kindergarten through eighth graders when Flemington-Raritan schools open their doors to students, hopefully on Nov. 2.
Desks will be 6 feet apart; plexiglass will shield high-touch areas; masks will be required; and hand sanitizing stations will be peppered throughout the schools.
“We’ve been doing a lot of work in all of our schools in order to have our students back,” said Superintendent Dr. Kari McGann.
McGann said she empathizes with parents who want their children back in the classroom, and, during Monday’s board of education meeting, she gave an update on what that will look like.
“For the parents who have called and emailed me, I hear you,” McGann said.
“The teachers want their students back, too,” she added.
Currently, students are attending classes virtually. On Sept. 21, special education students with the most need will return to in-person learning “as safety allows,” McGann said.
By Nov. 2, the school district will move to a hybrid model, with students rotating weekly, attending in-person and virtual classes in two cohorts.
“We’re seeing a number of districts in the state experience covid cases and going back to a virtual model,” said Tim Bart, board president, adding that the community should continue to “be vigilant and wear masks.”
“One party, one something in the community can quickly offset the plans that we’re charged with (in) trying to get students back,” he added.
After a positive COVID case last week, 16 members of the district’s custodial crew deep cleaned Francis A. Desmares Elementary School, which has 472 students enrolled in grades kindergarten through four.
The cleaning cost the district $4,043.75, which McGann said she hopes to recoup through FEMA.
“We will be submitting that to FEMA to hopefully get reimbursed,” she said.
A program allowing school districts to be reimbursed by FEMA for coronavirus-related expenses will end on Sept. 15, she said, though the expenses for the district will continue long after.
This week, members of the Flemington-Raritan Education Association will tour schools, which will make members more comfortable returning to class, according to FREA President Susan Vala, who spoke during the public comment segment of the hybrid meeting. A portion of the board met at the board of education office, while others joined the Zoom meeting remotely.
“We look forward to our walk-throughs this week,” said Vala, who invited board members to also join the tours.
She also noted that teachers want to be in-person with their students, but “only when it’s safe for all of us.”
“We are far from Tier 5,” McGann said. “We are close to Tier 3.”
Tier 5 is fully opening schools for in-person instruction. Tier 3 is the hybrid model.
“Everyone is working hard to get us there,” she said.
During the meeting, the district also welcomed new teachers and staff for the 2020-2021 school year following the Sept. 8 first day.
“We wish them much success in our school district as we’re getting off to an all-virtual format for our students,” McGann said.
Bart echoed her sentiments of welcome.
“We welcome them to Flemington-Raritan,” he said, adding the board is “wishing them a great year.”
McGann also acknowledged Hunterdon Medical Center for a donation of $3,000 worth of masks and gloves, and Shoprite of Flemington for a donation of 3,200 paper grocery bags to be used once the schools reopen.