LIVINGSTON, NJ — Although there was only one item on the agenda for Monday’s Livingston Board of Education (LBOE) meeting, administrators met virtually for nearly four hours as the superintendent presented the Livingston Public Schools (LPS) district’s reopening plan for the fall and members of the public provided input and expressed concerns.

Two days later, Gov. Phil Murphy announced a new executive order related to the upcoming academic year that LPS Superintendent Dr. Matthew Block said has the potential to create “significant changes in the process of opening schools” in Livingston and across the state. In response, the LBOE announced on Wednesday that Livingston’s plans for reopening will not be submitted for state approval until the district can re-evaluate the plan according to the governor’s order as well as public comments made earlier this week.

“There's no way for us to fully assess the impact of today's announcement until we see the executive order from the governor in writing,” said Block. “We've been advised by legal counsel today not to submit our current hybrid plan until we know more about what the governor's declaration today entails.

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"We're still working as an administrative team to prepare for our hybrid model and to also prepare our remote plan in case we need to move in that direction. We heard people's feedback on Monday, and we're re-looking at some of the aspects of our plan in response to that.”

In addition to allowing districts to fully resume in-person instruction for the upcoming academic year, Murphy’s new executive order also requires districts that cannot meet all health and safety standards for safe in-person instruction to begin their school year with all-remote learning.

In order to reopen in person in any capacity, a New Jersey public school district must: (1) show plans for satisfying the standards and (2) provide an anticipated date to resume in-person instruction.

Block stated that LPS administrators are “awaiting additional guidance as to what exactly all of this means,” but expect to receive documented materials by the end of the week. Once received, Block said administrators will “take a careful look at it, reflect on it and move forward accordingly.”

The superintendent also clarified a rumor floating around this week about Murphy allowing districts to go fully remote in the fall.

“That is not what he stated today,” said Block. “He indicated that there would be a process for school districts that may be encountering legitimate, documented reasons why cannot reopen. That's why we were advised not to vote or submit our plan yet—[Murphy] also talked about a waiver that would lead to a certification process that would need to be undertaken by each district, and we need to know more about that certification process.”

Based on this new information, an additional LBOE meeting has been added to the district calendar for next Wednesday, Aug. 19.

Block also explained that LPS families will be alerted sometime on Thursday about whether the governor’s announcement will affect the district’s plans to release a commitment form on Aug. 14 that would require families to select either the hybrid or all-remote instruction option by Monday, Aug. 17.

“We had some additional conversations about it this afternoon,” he said. “If we need to postpone asking our families that question, we will send out a notification one way or the other tomorrow.”

In response to concerns from parents that they are being asked to select an instruction preference prior to LPS releasing full details of a revitalized remote model that is still in the works, Block clarified that the only plans still being finalized are the secondary plans for going fully virtual in the event that the district needs to do so.

“The questionnaire is about whether you will be sending your child into school during the times that they're scheduled to be in school or whether they will be doing the all remote,” he said. “This secondary plan that we are sending out next week is the full virtual; if the whole district for some reason needs to go remote, that's the plan that we would follow.”

After receiving hundreds of questions from the public on Monday, the district condensed and organized them into a document responding to 15-page document responding to frequently asked questions and concerns. CLICK HERE to view the document.

Block’s full presentation of reopening plans can be viewed in the first 45 minutes of Monday’s council meeting, which can be viewed on the LPS Facebook page. Further details about these plans and additional coverage of the public’s response will be shared in a series of related articles in the coming days.

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