HOLMDEL, NJ - The day is here. Holmdel children are finally going back to school - literally. Parents can quickly double check their schedules at the Parent Portal.

In Holmdel, Monday starts off in school with the 'Silver' group. Silver will be in school  with a shortened schedule with no lunch. 'Blue' will be in Tuesday. The reason the schools are not yet open completely is due to social distancing space requirements. With the coronavirus tapering off, it is expected that further relaxations in rules and related improvements in class time will be in the near term.

Information links on the reopening of schools can be reviewed HERE

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According to Superintendent Lee Seitz, the teaching staff received professional development to make sure the learning is robust and markedly improved from the spring.

"To help our teachers as they prepare for this new normal, the District provided two full days of professional development prior to the opening of school and had a wonderful, nationally recognized speaker provide additional training on working with students to address their social and emotional needs which, as we know, have been hit hard by the isolation resulting from the COVID 19 lockdown. A critical element of our professional development program was the training of our staff on COVID 19 and the procedures we have put in place to ensure a healthy, safe environment COVID-19 Training." said Seitz.

Teachers teaching virtually

An issue that developed late in the process was that of teachers calling out for leave or other accommodations. This included a number of requests to teach from home to children who were in the classroom. This was met with disappointment from parents on social media.

Seitz explained. "This pandemic has caused a shortage of teachers throughout the State. Many school districts were required to open remotely because of this shortage. Fortunately, Holmdel is not in that position because we have had a limited number of teachers who, for a variety of documented reasons, cannot return to the classroom during this pandemic.  In these situations, our first priority was to find highly qualified teachers to fill these positions, but it has been difficult due to the overall shortage of teachers. We were unable to secure enough teachers to cover these vacated positions, forcing the District to seek other solutions for the 21 vacant positions to maintain the integrity of our instructional program." He stated.

"We are fortunate to have some of our exceptional teachers return from pre-planned maternity leaves to provide remote instruction to students while having a teacher or substitute in the classroom.  This was not ideal, but the only additional viable solution to address the few vacancies we have in the District so that students in these classrooms will benefit from the expertise and experience of our teachers virtually as well as from an in class teacher supporting them and the virtual students.  While some have questioned this model, the reality is that if we didn’t implement this option, we would have had to resort to a remote option only for all our students, which is not optimal."

The district is continuing to search for qualified teachers to address vacancies. 

The District is looking forward to getting closer to business as usual as the year goes on.  "We will be prepared to expand the school day as soon as we believe it is safe to do so. We are prepared to address any positive COVID 19 issues going forward, including if the State would require us to move to all remote.  Until that time, the priority of the District is to remain as flexible as possible as we embark upon this new mode of learning." stated Seitz, in the recent press release.  

There are a number of districts still remote but the number is now dwarfed by schools that are fully open or hybrid. The call from the New Jersey Education Association to have schools stay remote  has not panned out as districts, parents and teachers are ready to meet in person, and they are doing so. 

Many of the districts that are not open to students yet are in low to moderate income areas. Calls to keep these schools closed have had a systemic impact on low to moderate income families in New Jersey based on the demographics of the locations. They include Newark, Rahway, Paterson and others. In Elizabeth, fully 375 teachers refused to work face to face, resulting in shutting down live learning for the children and forcing work changes for parents and caregivers.

As schools become acclimated to in person learning and the coronavirus data continues to improve, look for a migration to regular schedules once again. So for Monday, it's High Ho Silver, Away!