MILLBURN, NJ — As students return to virtual school after Spring Break, the Millburn Board of Education spent yesterday evening’s meeting focusing on district plans to improve district learning, moving into phase “2.0.”
Superintendent Dr. Christine Burton opened the meeting by reassuring parents, specifically the parents of high school students, that distance learning will not negatively impact students’ higher education. She shared information from the high school’s head guidance counselor, Nancy Siegel, who reached out to many universities. The responses were unanimous: semester 2 of 2020 would be ignored.
Even though the grades from semester 2 will not be used in college decisions, that doesn’t mean that the district is slackening distance learning measures. In fact, the board outlined the district’s plan to develop a distance learning plan that more closely mimics the student-teacher interactions from physical school.
Starting yesterday, here are the changes Millburn schools are making:
- For elementary school students (prekindergarten through fifth grade), teachers will make video lessons and personal calls more often.
- For middle school students, teachers will continue using Google Classroom and will incorporate other virtual platforms, including YouTube and Flipgrid. Teachers will also host virtual “office hours” where students can ask questions.
- For high school students, teachers will continue using Google Classroom and will teach at least 1 live virtual class per week.
During the public comments portion of the meeting, parents still expressed concern about the level of interaction students were receiving with teachers, many drawing comparisons between Millburn’s plan and those of other school districts.
Sadesh Kumar said “the amount of interaction that’s going on is very limited.”
David Bernstein echoed the same sentiment, describing the low level of interaction, specifically for elementary schoolers, as “not acceptable.”
Carrie Strassberg explained that because students are at home all day, they have much more time on their hands, meaning that the district needs “more out of the box and innovative solutions brought to bear.”
Board members responded to these rising concerns, citing Dr. Burton’s previous Distance Learning Update in which she described the changes that are being implemented just this week.
Sonali Ganti reassured the community that the new guidelines were developed “painstakingly,” with considerations for both the administration and the students.
“It is an unprecedented situation, but I think we can expect to see a more interactive experience for our students in the coming days,” added John Green.
Board President Alex Zaltsman shared his own experience with his two children, both in elementary school. He understands why parents are concerned, they all want the best for their children. However, Zaltsman stressed the importance of patience.
“All of this is happening within weeks—this didn’t even exist a month and a half ago […] This will improve.”