LIVINGSTON, NJ — Despite the district’s last-minute decision to start the 2020-2021 academic year with fully remote instruction, Livingston Public Schools (LPS) had a reportedly successful first two weeks of school and will welcome back its youngest learners on Monday as the district slowly transitions into a hybrid learning model.

“Although it was an unusual first day of school, I know that our teachers loved seeing our students and the students enjoyed meeting their teachers virtually before the first day of school,” said Superintendent Dr. Matthew Block. “We had some in person events and orientations out in those tents, [and] I just really want to give a thank you to our administrators our teachers and everybody who worked so hard to get us to [the first day]."

In the week leading up to the first day of school, LPS staff participated in professional development (PD) days that included training on “how to strategically use their devices to engage the kids on every level,” according to Block.

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Other PD workshops were based on feedback from remote instruction presented in the spring about the need for better coordination between the teachers.

Despite the significant obstacles that staffing issues have created for returning to in-person instruction—particularly on the secondary level—Block recently announced that students in Pre-K through second grade will resume onsite schooling on Sept. 21 with the hybrid model as presented earlier this summer. Special education students who are in the self-contained classes will also transition to a hybrid model on that date.

“Although we did remote learning in the spring, this is a whole new paradigm," said Block. "Starting the school year is very different than going to remote learning in March, and our teachers are determined to provide the best for our students, and we're looking forward to a good year.”

Offering his thoughts on the early days of remote learning from a student’s perspective, Livingston High School senior Aditya Desai, who also serves as the student representative to the Livingston Board of Education, said he felt that LPS had an “overall fluid start to the school year.”

“The administration has worked hard and hands-on with teachers and faculty to provide a plethora of access to remote resources, all the while making headway towards resuming in person learning when feasible,” he said. “For me, a highlight was just the element of being able to reconnect with peers—albeit virtually. Of course, it would’ve been better if the administration could’ve implemented an in-person meet day for classes in a socially distanced setting.”

Although many of the younger grades were able to meet their teachers, the same has yet to occur for high school. Desai applauded the district’s effort to bring back the younger students first, but added that any “face-to-face connection” for the older students “would be a huge relief in mitigating some of the mental/emotional burnout that a lot of students are facing.”

In terms of academic issues with the remote learning model, Desai said there have been “few, if any, new ones” over the first few days of the school year.

“Most standout issues—ranging from too much screen time to a lack of academic integrity—are largely still the same as the spring,” he said.

As the student representative to the board, Desai experienced the conversations about reopening first-hand and was able to provide input throughout the summer. To read about his perspective on reopening, CLICK HERE.

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