HAMILTON, NJ -- Thousands of Hamilton Township families are on pins and needles as they are contemplating sending their children back to school in September. The Hamilton Township School District (HTSD) has announced a "hybrid plan" for in-person and remote learning but there is still a lot of "concern, caution, and worry" according to the teacher's union about the safety of the students, which is their top priority. 

Head of the Hamilton Township Education Association (HTEA), Frank Gatto, told TAPinto Hamilton/Robbinsville that the goal in planning a return to the classroom is "to make it as safe as possible which is almost impossible.

"This isn't like a game of horseshoes where close is good enough," said Gatto. "You can't go have a sandwich somewhere, but we're saying kids have to go back to school. A lot of people are anxious. We are concerned about the safety of the students and our staff is willing to do anything to help protect the kids."

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HTEA represents more than 1,300 men and women who work in the School District including approximately 900 teachers. 

Gatto commended Hamilton Township School Superintendent Dr. Scott Rocco who he said "has been on task" working with the teachers, faculty and steering committee. He said the problem is the State hasn't taken certain concerns into consideration such as discipline in the classroom or the conflict between fire codes that require classroom doors to be closed while proposes education department guidelines say doors should be open. 

"Dr. Rocco is really trying and maintaining an open line of communication but there are still things we don't have answers to from the state," said Gatto.

He noted that chief among the concerns for the teachers is how to balance their own family concerns such as child care or caring for elderly family members and protecting them from contracting COVID-19 (coronavirus).  

Gatto said he is hoping to have more insight on the school opening plan on Friday after Governor Phil Murphy is expected to announce guidelines for virtual learning.  The school district could update their proposal opening plans before they are presented to the Hamilton Township Board of Education on August 3. 

"The only way that we beat this virus is if we work together," said Gatto. 

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