LIVINGSTON, NJ — In addition to reflecting on the results of a survey recently distributed to all Livingston Public Schools (LPS) students, staff and parents to learn more about their experience with remote learning in order to refine the model for future use, the district is also considering a revision to the 2020-2021 academic calendar to allow for additional professional development (PD) days that will be crucial for all reopening scenarios.

Although the Livingston Board of Education (LBOE) typically only schedules two meetings during the summer months, the board held its fourth meeting since June 22 on Wednesday and announced its intention to schedule additional due to the volume of topics that need to be discussed. The primary topic addressed on Wednesday was the district’s planning process for reopening schools in the fall and how the district is preparing for three possible reopening scenarios: all in person, all virtual or a hybrid of the two.

Recognizing that two of those scenarios would involve remote learning to a certain extent, Superintendent Dr. Matthew Block explained how LPS plans to use the recent survey results to improve the virtual experience for students and recommended a modified calendar to allow for critical PD days for all faculty.

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“Inevitably, at some point, we’re going to be looking at remote learning—whether it's a result of the pandemic or it’s used in the future as a snow day,” said LBOE President Ronnie Konner. “Those things have yet to be determined, but I think that this is an area that we really need to focus on…We were fortunate to get comments from students and parents as well as teachers, and the takeaways will be used to help improve the remote learning experience going forward.”

Although there are already two days built into the calendar prior to welcoming the students back in September, Block recommended taking the two PD days that were previously scheduled for October and February and moving them to September. Should the LBOE vote to approve the revision, faculty would have four days to prepare their classrooms and attend useful PD workshops while the students would return on Sept. 8, two school days later than anticipated.

“Our reopening committees have been meeting, and we realize that no matter what our final plan is for bringing students and staff back to school, there will most definitely be a need for a significant amount of PD and time with our staff before we welcome students back for next year,” said Block, who urged the board to consider this promptly in order to give families as much advanced notice as possible. “We feel that we will absolutely need all four days at the beginning of the year in order to allow our teachers to prepare their classrooms and to prepare for meetings and PD regarding in-person and virtual instruction, or even how to do both simultaneously.

“We’ll need to review health and safety procedures and probably even make last-minute modifications to spaces throughout the district. We know that no matter what the final plan in Livingston looks like, school will not look like it’s ever looked before. So having our staff in for four days before the students arrive I think is critical to the success of the opening of our year.”

Refining the district’s plan for remote instruction is one of two major projects that the LBOE is undertaking this summer.

The other major project—formulating a plan for reopening in person—is more complex, as Block proclaimed that the “world is likely to shift in the next seven weeks.”

During Wednesday’s meeting, board members addressed specific concerns and considerations for returning to school in person either full time or in a variety of hybrid models that would involve students switching off between in-person and remote learning. Block further explained these different scenarios and why the district as opted not to officially select one until more information can be gathered.

This includes analyzing any input received through individualized surveys being distributed to all students, faculty members and parents/guardians about what they think reopening should look like come September. A letter from the superintendent detailing the survey and why it is so important for the LPS community to participate can be found BY CLICKING HERE.

CLICK HERE to read the full article about Wednesday's discussion on reopening. 

Results from the remote learning survey—which garnered responses from 2,173 students, 1,625 parents and 412 staff members—can be reviewed at any time by clicking on the following links:

The district aims to have a final plan in place by Aug. 10, approximately one month before the start of school, and will share the details with the entire school community at that time.

Until then, the LBOE and district administrators continue to consult with experts and take other data points into account—such as the classroom capacity at each facility and a survey being distributed to parents and staff to determine their comfort level of returning to school—in order to make an informed decision.

Public comments can be heard about 90 minutes into Wednesday’s LBOE meeting, which can be viewed in its entirety on the Livingston Public Schools Facebook page.

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