MILLBURN, NJ — Yesterday afternoon, the Millburn Board of Education (BOE) met virtually for the first time during the COVID-19 pandemic. On the docket was the district’s plan for continuing distance learning.
There are now 18 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Millburn and the virus is continuing to spread every day. Last week, Governor Murphy issued an executive order closing all schools in New Jersey, although it is unclear for how long the order will be in effect. As a result, Millburn schools are now closed indefinitely. The initial plan to teach virtually for two weeks is being revised for the long term.
Superintendent Dr. Christine Burton said she will continue communicating three times a week with district parents and students to update them on the virus’s spread and what measures are being taken to continue education.
“We are now moving from a more static to a more dynamic environment in our schools,” she said. “We are looking to continue providing long term support.”
Burton described the “balancing act” for both the faculty and the students, stressing that while both parties are experiencing a learning curve, the district is doing everything it can to ease the transition.
During the public comments portion of the meeting, the two parents who spoke, Lily Lee and Carrie Masia, brought up the same concerns with communication.
Lee expressed the need for students to speak with their teachers orally. Between her two children, one who attends the middle school and one who attends the high school, Lee said only one had a teacher doing virtual lessons. For all their other classes, the students received work on Google Classroom.
Masia stressed the need for “communication” and “support” by suggesting that teachers host virtual office hours and that students receive regular updates from guidance counselors, such as about the changed AP exam format.
Board members Johnathan Green and Jamie Serruto agreed that what students need most is an “interactive” experience. The district understands this need and will address solutions during “phase two” of distance learning.
“Phase two” entails more direct communication between students and teachers, more so than going back and forth verbally on Google Classroom. The district is currently working on a plan to further mimic the face to face experience students would have were they attending physical school, whether that be through virtual video lessons or some other means. Communication is key.
As Dr. Burton said, “we will get through this.”
As of now, distance learning in Millburn is still an evolving process, with changes being made every day.