HAWTHORNE, NJ - On Friday morning Hawthorne Superintendent of Schools Richard Spirito released a letter to the borough's parents with an update on the re-opening plan for the 2020-2021 school year. According to his letter, the first day of school has been moved back to September 8, which will allow for some time to implement the necessary changes which will be put in place to keep students and staff safe. 

The district has recently created a Restart Committee comprised of approximately 30 individuals. These committee members include district leaders, teachers, parents, Board of Education members as well as students. While the Restart Committee is still finalizing its plans for a hybrid model of learning, there is a framework that parents are able to begin weighing the pros and cons over. 

"Students will be grouped into small cohorts to allow for proper social distancing and limit exposure," Spirito said.  "Each cohort will have two days of in-person instruction and three days of remote instruction each week. In person instruction days will follow an early dismissal schedule and grab and go lunches will be made available at dismissal." 

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As parents are beginning to process the news, many are voicing their opinions on social media with many anxiously awaiting the final decisions for the plan, which is set to be released early August. Others are upset with the idea that there will not be full-time learning in the upcoming school year.  

Spirito provided a link to the district's calendar, which can be found here.

The idea of two half-days of in-person instruction is a tough pill to swallow for many of the parents who are planning on returning to work full-time. Uncertainties have arisen with how to plan their workload around their children's upcoming school schedule. With only a little over a month to solidify care plans, parents will have to scramble to make the best decisions for their families. 

In his letter, Spirito said, "Our intent is to share a full reopening plan with our school community in early August 2020. However, please understand that this plan is subject to change based on updates from the New Jersey Department of Education and the Governor’s office. In the meantime, you can visit our new Restart and Recovery webpage where you will find information about or restart committee and important district updates."

Resident Sheenamarie Ragusa shared her concerns for Hawthorne parents. "It makes me feel terrible for all these parents. No parent ever wants to admit they are struggling; they are doing their best trying to make everything work and give their children the best life they can." Ragusa continued with her frustration over the timeline of the release of this update. "The Board of Ed knew these kids would eventually need to come back to school, so why wait last minute to form a solid plan giving everyone involved to form their own solid plan for the school year?" 

"I thank the committee members and the administration for all the time and work being poured into the effort," Board of Education Vice President Alex Clavijo said.  "These are unprecedented scenarios we are dealing with and the implications of the decisions we understand are of great magnitude on different fronts. As a board, we are grateful we have the dedicated and capable team in place spearheading the effort."

In Wednesday's press conference, Governor Phil Murphy announced that regardless of school districts' decisions for the academic year, parents will be able to opt-in to an "all remote learning option." Another public address will be made Friday afternoon where he is expected to release more details regarding the upcoming school year.

Some local child care centers have already implemented plans to be able to accommodate school aged children this upcoming school year, knowing full well the challenges that exist in providing a group care setting during the COVID-19 pandemic, and have established updated health and safety guidelines released by the CDC.  There are many other care options available to parents, include babysitting, tutoring, and homeschooling. With only a matter of weeks, there is much to still be decided by the school district and parents alike.

The full letter from Mr. Spirito can be found on the district website by clicking here.


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