LIVINGSTON, NJ — Following a successful first week of hybrid learning for Livingston Public Schools (LPS) students in grades Pre-K through two and self-contained special education classes, the district announced target dates for older students to return to the buildings in person.

According to Superintendent Dr. Matthew Block, students in grades three through five will begin attending elementary schools on the hybrid schedule on Oct. 5, at which point all secondary education families will be asked to commit to either remaining all-remote or participating in hybrid instruction. LPS sixth graders will transition to the hybrid model beginning on Oct. 19, followed by students in grades seven through 12 on Oct. 26.

As he visited the elementary schools throughout the week, Block said that the transition to the hybrid model for the district’s youngest students “could not have been smoother” from a logistical perspective.

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“It was kind of an emotional morning [on Monday] in our elementary schools as we saw the smiling faces—and not just the faces of the parents, but the faces of the students as well—as they entered our schools for the first time since March,” he said. “I just want to give a note [of] appreciation to our teachers, to our building administrators to our teachers’ aides, to our custodians, to everybody in each of those buildings that worked really hard to make today possible. Every member of our administration and every teacher and every educator, our Livingston team contributed to making that possible.”

He also thanked the administration and teachers for their efforts to make virtual back-to-school nights as stimulating as possible, stating that many parents have expressed “excitement and enthusiasm about the work that [LPS] teachers and principals did in putting those events together.”

“I know that it will never be ideal to do a back-to-school night virtually, but we have had a first few back-to-school nights, […] and we will continue being as creative as possible to try to bring as many events to our families as we possibly can,” said Block. “Some of our elementary schools have had events at school where students and parents have been able to be outside for orientations and meet and greets and fun activities…

“We know that our students need socialization, we know that they want to meet their teachers, we know they want to meet their classmates. As we continue working [on] ‘The Road Back,’ we will do everything that we can to engage our students and press—as much as we can while the weather is good—in-person activities outside.”

As the district works to transition the higher grade levels to the hybrid models on the dates indicated above, Block acknowledged the ongoing staffing challenges throughout the district, stating that these issues are currently most prevalent at Heritage Middle School and Livingston High School.

According to Block, staffing continues to be a primary focus, and the district aims to “secure the requisite level of staffing” at those two schools by the time students transition to the hybrid model on Oct. 26.

“We believe this is a realistic timeline based on current circumstances,” he said. “We believe our buildings are ready, [but] the staffing is not simple. It is not something that is going to be solved overnight, but we are pushing and we are anxious, and we know that our families are anxious to get back at every level."

Block has also emphasized that although the district is committed to transitioning to hybrid learning on those dates, it is up to the community to help ensure that the COVID-19 rate of transmission remains low enough to allow students to return safely to LPS facilities.

“We have recently heard about some local schools that have been forced to go all remote because of positive COVID-19 cases, which were likely spread and parties and gatherings that occurred outside of school without masks, physical distancing or proper precautions,” he said. “As we work within the district to open our schools, it is equally important that our students, families and community work to make healthy and responsible choices outside of the district so that we can keep our community spread low.”

Block will hold his first “Coffee with the Superintendent” event of the new school year on Wednesday, Sept. 30, from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. (weather permitting) at the gazebo on Livingston’s Memorial Park Oval. Parents are encouraged to bring a lawn chair and a warm beverage along with their questions and comments for the superintendent and other LPS administrators.

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