MORRISTOWN, NJ - Mackey Pendergrast, Superintendent of the Morris School District sent a letter to parents and guardians updating them on the plan for the fall.

"My hopeful vision for academic year 2020-21 is to have students fill our classrooms, play sports and musical instruments together, create beautiful artwork and compositions, conduct lab experiments and rocket launches, and enjoy learning alongside each other and their teachers", wrote Pendergrast.  "There is no doubt that learning is a fundamentally social endeavor and that a rigorous, equitable, effective education is best delivered in a face-to-face context.  Please know that our teachers, counselors, administrators, and other staff members all want to see our students back in our school buildings.

Governor Murphy has announced the guidelines for reopening New Jersey colleges and universities and K-12 school districts are anticipating receiving similar guidelines.

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"K-12 schools will likely be “in spirit with” the guidance for higher education", said Pendergrast. "If that holds true, we can expect the following to be required of us, among other things:

  • Set protocols for cleaning and disinfecting
  • Temperature scanning, testing, and contact tracing
  • Wearing masks and social distancing in classrooms and throughout our school buildings and on school buses
  • A combination of indoor, outdoor, staggered, and remote classes to allow for social distancing and to allow provisions for students and staff at elevated risk

Pendergrast stated that the in-school environment will "be very different" from what students are used to. he said certain programs like gym, music and athletic will been to be overhauled and that part of the instruction will be delivered virtually.

"Our district administrators have been engaged in a multi-step problem-solving process to thoroughly analyze and refine several models of school reentry, which range from completely in-school learning to completely virtual learning, with several alternative arrangements and hybrid models along the continuum", he wrote.  "Over the summer, we will expand on this preliminary work to involve principals, teachers, counselors, board members, families, local officials, and other stakeholders.  When September comes, the Morris School District will begin the new academic year confident that whatever reentry model we have operationalized is the best choice among all possibilities given State mandates and existing external conditions.  At the same time, we will need to be flexible and meticulously prepared so that we are able to move quickly between models in case we must scale back or suspend operations.  Such decisions will be guided by a set of data-driven benchmarks and threshold conditions".  

As plans for fall are developing, the Morris School District will continue to focus on the areas of instruction, technology integration, and professional development, a healthy community, operational needs of students and staff as well as physical health services.

"I understand how difficult it is for so many of our families who feel in the dark about what September holds for their children’s education as well as their own circumstances", said Pendergrast.  "We all crave answers; we need them in order to plan effectively, make adjustments, and set expectations.  A certain degree of persistent uncertainty seems inevitable, and we must accept that we will have to make decisions with incomplete, imprecise and dynamic information.  Please remember that our ultimate plan for September is contingent on a number of external conditions, some of which I hope will become clear next week when we hear from the Governor’s Office".

"Yet, as much as we long to reopen our schools and return to relative normalcy, we have to be able to protect the health and safety of everyone in our district community as best we can--those who are in our school buildings and those who are directly connected to them", he concluded.  "We will continue to ground our decision-making in science, data, and public health.  We will continue to prioritize the well-being of our students and staff and the integrity and continuity of our instruction so that each student can grow socially, emotionally and academically throughout the 2020-21 school year".

To read the full letter, click HERE


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