MONTVILLE, NJ – The Montville Township Public Schools are fleshing out a plan for re-opening, via a 34-member committee, a draft plan released at the end of July, and a more than three-hour meeting held Aug. 8.

Parts of the plan, estimated to cost upwards of $1 million, include only half of the older students attending the schools on any given day, all students learning from home on Wednesdays to allow for away deep cleaning of buildings, early dismissals every day, and face mask-wearing a requirement.

As far as even getting on that bus, or even entering that school building in the first place, Superintendent of Schools René Rovtar said at the meeting, “I think we all have some social responsibility with this to do self-screening. If you are not feeling well, if your student does not feel well, please do not come to school. I think Montville has done an excellent job managing this disease. I think currently we’re at two active [COVID-19] cases. I think most of the town has taken this very seriously. I plead with you to take the same level of concern with regard to sending your student to school. Don’t send them if they’re sick or exhibiting any symptoms.”

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Students will be attending school in-building, with students spaced three to six feet apart and wearing masks in situations where a distance of six feet is not maintained, according to the plan. Every day will be “early dismissal,” with no lunch period and no recess. School principals will be creating schedules to minimize student movement within the building, using programs like “art on a cart” or “music on a cart,” according to the plan. Hand sanitizer will be made available in all classrooms and offices. Physical education classes will be conducted outside as often as possible, depending on weather conditions.

Half of the middle school and high school students will attend Monday/Tuesday, and the other half will attend Thursday/Friday. All students district-wide will be home for online learning on Wednesdays.

One-way corridors may be developed, and daily bell schedules might be altered by the principals to provide additional time for students to pass between classes with the necessary modifications. Special dismissal procedures may be developed by the building principal.

The high school times will be, approximately, 7:25 a.m. to 11:55 p.m., the elementary schools will be from 8:10 a.m. to 12:40 p.m., and Lazar from 8:40 a.m. to 1:25 p.m.

Parents opting for full-time remote learning for their student must complete the form available in the Genesis Parent Portal by Aug. 12. At the elementary level, students in grades K-5 will be assigned to a remote learning class for their grade level. These classes may be assigned on a cross-district basis because there may not be enough to make up a class, Rovtar said. If parents want to change from at-home learning to in-building learning, they can do so only at the start of a new marking period or trimester (elementary level), according to the plan.

As far as the bottom line – health of students – the screening of the students won’t happen at school but at home. The district will use an app for all students and staff members, and daily reporting is required. Any student or staff member with a fever of 100.0° F or greater, or possible COVID symptoms should remain at home, the plan says.

A resident asked at the meeting what would happen if a student tested positive and Rovtar said that the class would shift to full-time at-home learning for 14 days and would be notified by the Montville Township Board of Health.

Backpacks will be used for personal belongings for middle and high schoolers – not lockers – and there will be no storytime or circle time for the younger students. Locker rooms won’t be used during physical education – programs will focus on health, Rovtar said.

The district will be installing ionization filters to its classroom and building HVAC systems. But Rovtar said that windows will be open more often than not.

“The classrooms will be cooler, so dress in layers – we will be emphasizing fresh air,” Rovtar said.

Students riding Montville buses will be required to wear masks and sit in assigned seats, and bus drivers will have a supply of masks. Parents at the bus stops should wear masks, too. Students who are picked up first on the route will proceed to the back of the bus and be seated. The next students will fill in the seats in the middle of the bus, then the front of the bus, until the bus fills in. In this way the students don’t have to walk past each other as they board the bus.

Students will have no field trips, and no use of school buildings for external groups will be allowed. Parents won’t be allowed into buildings unless absolutely necessary.

Overall, the multi-faceted plan covers many bases but could be rendered invalid if Gov. Murphy decides schools must close due to an uptick.

“It’s pretty fluid out there – this could change next week,” Board President Charles Grau said. “When we get directives from the state of New Jersey, the Dept. of Education or the governor’s office, this plan would have to be amended.”

The board voted 6-3 for a letter to be sent to the governor supporting not opening schools for September and October. However, school will open as scheduled Sept. 8. (Fano, Modrak, Rappaport voting no)

See the draft plan, approved at the Aug. 8 meeting, here: https://www.montvilletwpps.nj.schools.bz/userfiles/2/my%20files/montville%20township%20public%20schools%20reopening%20plan%20september%202020%20-%20draft.pdf?id=2520

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