NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - The superintendent of schools and members of the New Brunswick Board of Education say the shift to remote instruction has gone smoothly for the district's 10,300 or so students.
From the members of the administration to the teachers to the students to the community - many were credited with playing a role in the district's success after schools were closed March 16 in reaction to the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak.
Many who commented at Tuesday night's Board of Education meeting - which was held via teleconferencing technology - traced it back to preparedness and planning.
Superintendent Aubrey Johnson said the preparations go back to January, months before “social distancing” became part of our vocabulary.
“We were ahead of the curve,” Johnson said. “I personally want to thank the board for their leadership and giving us the green light to do whatever we felt was necessary to put our plan in place to make sure our entire community was safe and to ensure our students will continue to learn and be fed.”
Plans were quickly put in place to distribute Chromebooks to be used for online learning and schools were scrubbed and disinfected.
Although the school doors are closed, Johnson pointed out the district has set up pickup points in four parks around the city where students can come twice a week and pick up multiple meals.
At times, some 150 volunteers have come out to help the distribution of thousands of meals. On Tuesday alone, 16,000 meals were distributed to students.
Emra Seawood, chair of the Curriculum Committee, said the members met on March 11 and reviewed the pandemic crisis preparedness plan and continuity of teaching and learning plan.
She said that Assistant Superintendent Keira Scussa played a key role in getting the staff ready for remote instruction.
“There shouldn’t be any difficulty following the plan,” Seawood said. “All of our students have been given Chromebooks and teachers are available for monitoring, supervision, instruction. And, as always, if there is any difficulty using the equipment, our IT team is available and prepared to help.”
Board President Diana Solis said that she has seen-first how well at-home instruction is working. Her three students are logged in and ready to go by 9 a.m.
“What I see as a parent with three children involved in the district during the crisis we are currently experiencing, the preparedness of our district is really just awe-inspiring because I’ve spoke to other parents with children in neighboring towns and they are not as well-equipped as we have been with the pandemic,” Solis said.
Solis also gave credit to the students, who she said have not panicked despite the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Not only are the teachers well-prepared thanks to our administrative staff, but the students are so easily adaptable to these situations and I’m just in awe as a parent to see this working so smoothly,” she said. “I always say I’m so proud to be from New Brunswick but in a situation like this you really have to appreciate the fact we have been able to provide computers for each and every single child now grades 1 through 12 and been able to feed so many.”