ROBBINSVILLE, NJ -- Robbinsville's schools are “ready to go” to welcome students back to class in-person or virtually on Tuesday, September 8, new district Brian Betze Superintendent has told TAPinto Hamilto/Robbinsville. 

Offering a reminder that the first day of school would “not look like a normal day," Betze said that he plans to be standing in front of Sharon Elementary School to welcome students back on Tuesday morning because he “would never have teachers do what I won’t do myself.”

Prior to coming to Robbinsville, Betze served as superintendent in the Jamesburg School District in Middlesex County. He was excited to come to Robbinsville that is a “bigger school district with a great reputation,” he said.

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While he had an initial idea on how he would settle into his new role, the impact of the coronavirus on schools, and the need to plan how to keep kids healthy, became priority number one.  

Betze said that he got to know the staff, particularly the school nurses, much more quickly. He did a deep dive into getting to know the teams and systems faster in order to work together seamlessly.

“We were focused on doing what’s best for kids to get them back safely and are doing whatever we can to make it happen,” said Betze.

The District has changed every filter in all the school HVAC systems, bought sanitization stations, implemented deep cleaning of high touch areas, video cameras for classrooms and computers, and bought plexiglass shields for teachers and professional staff desks, he added. Emergency kits also are placed in the school completed with masks, face shields, and additional gear. 

Some of the cost of the equipment and personal protective equipment (PPE) has been covered by the CARES federal funding. Other monies have come from “moving things around” in the school budget. 

Of the 3,100 students in the school district, approximately 50 percent have chosen to work entirely remotely.  Pre-kindergarten through fourth grade students at Sharon Elementary School and fifth graders at Pond Road Middle School will return for a four hour and 15-minute in-person day, then continue their classes remotely at home in the afternoon.

In addition, 150 special education students district wide will return. Betze said it was a priority to help the most vulnerable students return to the classroom.

The school chief is expecting to face issues as school returns but is also prepared to “work on the fly to fix them, with teachers and staff to solve problems.”

In the event that a student or staff member is showing COVID-19 symptoms while in school, they have created isolation rooms and implemented a protocol to protect others. The District will be utilizing the Johns Hopkins method of contract tracing to determine potential exposure.

Betze said that he and his team continue to make sure that technology is up to par to work remotely and to make sure learning is on track, an effort that has included distributing 850 Chromebooks and 150 wifi adapters so that students have the devices they need, and performing a “stress test” this past week to look for any problems in virtual teaching.     

In addition, the Robbinsville School District will be using MAP testing to monitor any learning regression in students caused by the change in traditional in-school education. 

Betze also noted that there are plans to move into the school year with the traditional events and programs.

After meeting with students athletes and speaking with families, fall sports will be returning and following NJSIAA guidelines and plans are underway to maintain the fall Homecoming tradition. Staff, Betze said, has begun planning the annual fall play to be presented virtually. 

Among the things Betze he is looking forward to is seeing the technology lab bustling with students working together again. “There’s no way to socially distance while building a robot. But, I’m excited to see the lab going again when we can."

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