LIVINGSTON, NJ – Superintendent of Livingston Public Schools (LPS) Dr. Matthew Block gave the issue most on everyone’s minds a featured spot on this week’s Livingston Board of Education (LBOE) agenda as he reviewed the district’s response to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and detailed its future contingency plans should schools be mandated to shutter their doors in the coming weeks.
“I’m really proud of the efforts of the Livingston Public Schools,” said Block. “We did a lot beginning in January as this began to come to light, working to stay abreast of all the information on this topic to ensure the safety and health of our schools.”
According to Dr. Block, the district worked diligently to get ahead of the curve by enhancing cleaning processes; asking students who had traveled to outbreak areas or who had experienced second or third-hand exposure to self-quarantine; and proactively contacting the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) and the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) on a regular basis.
Early on, even before being instructed to do so, LPS also began implementing best-practice hygiene regiments, such as deep cleaning facilities and taking other precautionary measures, going above and beyond to employ added directives that could help stem the spread of COVID-19.
Earlier this month, when the NJDOE announced that it would break with normal protocol to allow districts to offer online learning if forced closures were enacted, all New Jersey schools were alerted that they would need to prepare and submit an online education plan.
In response, LPS took advantage of its already-scheduled delayed opening on March 10 and the fact that so few snow days were utilized this winter by giving students the full day off on Tuesday so that faculty could be further educated on the district’s comprehensive contingency plans.
Following Tuesday’s professional development workshop, Dr. Block issued a statement to elementary and secondary school parents and caretakers on Wednesday outlining the district’s remote learning plans.
Cautioning parents that there is no imminent reason to believe the district needs to put these procedures into play at present, the superintendent enumerated the protocols for daily learning that would go into effect in the event that the states require schools to shut down in the coming weeks or months.
“Our goal is to keep students learning during a timeframe when we may not be in school,” said Block.
According to Block, steps are currently being taken to ensure that Livingston children and their parents are prepared for approximately four hours of online learning per day in the event that teaching needs to be moved to a remote platform.
Although Livingston students in grades 6 to 12 already possess township-issued Chromebooks, elementary students do not yet have access to these devices. In preparation for online learning, the district has issued an online survey to parents of students in grades 2 to 5 to determine how many families would require a loaner Chromebook.
In the meantime, LPS advises parents and guardians that students will likely be instructed to bring their devices home for testing in order to minimize the number of glitches at the time that a remote learning situation goes into effect.
In that eventuality, parents and guardians will be asked to guide younger students by approving a daily agenda via Email, marking each student as present for the day’s instruction and ensuring that his or her assignments have been completed.
According to LPS, secondary students would be responsible for following daily instructions being Emailed to them and logging their attendance through Genesis as they join each online session.
“It’s important to remember, we can’t replicate what it is to have an LPS education online,” said Block. “It won’t be the same thing as coming to school, being with other students, or having all the supplies and the classrooms available; but we believe we’ve come up with a solid plan and that we’ll be ready to go if we’re called upon to close.”
Should schools shut down for an extended period of time, Block said that students should expect a one-day gap in instruction while teachers and administrators prepare to deliver remote instruction. He added that parents would be informed of the remote-instruction timeline as early as possible.
As of this week, any LPS students who have self-quarantined have been marked as “administrative – excused” and have not been penalized for their absences.
Scheduled field trips have yet to be canceled, although LPS reminds the community that the district reserves the right to do so as the situation evolves.
“We’ve been conservative in our approach and focused on this day in and da out,” said Block. “We monitor the situation hour by hour and minute by minute.”
CLICK HERE for more information on the district’s response to the developing situation and to access updates on remote teaching schedules.