LIVINGSTON, NJ — Livingston Public Schools (LPS) has announced that the district is using one of its remaining snow days this week in order to prepare Livingston educators to teach from home in the event that the district is ordered to close for an extended period of time in an effort to slow the spread of Caronavirus disease (COVID-19).

For the first time ever, the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) has informed all districts that they will be allowed to utilize online learning in order to satisfy the required 180 days of school in the event that the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) orders them to close. 

LPS, which had already scheduled a delayed opening for students on Tuesday, March 10 for professional development, has decided to give students the full day off in order to provide staff members with "comprehensive training in remote instruction."

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"We do not change the school calendar lightly, and we understand that a last minute change like this one can cause real logistical challenges for our families," said Superintendent Dr. Matthew Block. "Under unprecedented circumstances, we simply want to be as prepared as possible, as quickly as possible. We believe that the sooner we can familiarize Livingston’s educators with these tools, the better."

In a letter to parents over the weekend, Block reassured the community that LPS is not closing on Tuesday for any reason other than "to allow for this important and timely professional development program so that [the district] can be fully prepared if the NJDOH decides to close schools for an extended period of time."

"The change in the day is in no way motivated by concerns about the health of our schools," he said. "We have no health-related incidents that would cause us to close. We simply believe that, in the event we are told to close in the future, we need to be ready to deliver the best education possible to our students under those circumstances."

Although many parents were concerned about what remote learning would mean for their families, they also expressed pride in hearing that LPS was going through the steps to ensure that teachers would be prepared. In fact, some parents said they saw this as an important measure that other districts might not even be taking. 

"This is the kind of preventative measure that makes this town awesome,” said Daniel Millman, whose first child will be attending LPS next year. “Great form of communication, well written and thought out. Better to be prepared for what may happen, versus scrambling at the last minute playing the 'well it won’t happen here' game."

Fellow resident Mike Ramer, administrator of the Livingston Education! Facebook group and chair of the Livingston Vision 20/20 Education Sub-committee, agreed, stating that the administration’s decision to dedicate a full day to professional development is "a smart, proactive move."

"The day will allow teachers and staff to get prepared—and be trained on remote instruction—should the Coronavirus outbreak come to Livingston," said Ramer. "Working parents may feel the day off for students is an inconvenience, but it is prudent to have a contingency plan in place. Always better to be safe when it comes to our children’s health and well-being.”

Block added that LPS continues to implement "all of the preventative measures" that he has indicated in prior communications. CLICK HERE to read more updates from the Livingston district regarding ongoing health concerns. 

On Monday afternoon, Gov. Phil Murphy officially declared a State of Emergency and a Public Health Emergency in an effort to ramp up New Jersey’s efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19. According to Murphy, this declaration allows state agencies and departments to utilize state resources to assist affected communities responding to and recovering from COVID-19 cases.

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