NEWTON, NJ – Newton is the latest school district in Sussex County to pull the plug on in-person instruction for the fall.  In a letter to parents, Superintendent Kennedy Greene explained the students will be learning remotely because they have not been able to meet all the requirements set forth in their Restart and Recovery Plan.

Green said specifically there were six standards that had not been entirely met are not expected to meet in time for opening day on September 8.  The remote opening will last through October 2, or until the standards set forth in the plan have been met.

According to Greene the fist plan to reopen schools was initially approved by the Newton Board of Education on July 28 and reapproved on August 25.  The plans establish a path to reopen with consideration for health and safety standards related to the pandemic as determined by the New Jersey Department of Education.

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Five of the six deficient standards are due to “necessary supplies that have been ordered but not yet delivered,” Greene said.   The six deficient standards are:

  • Ventilation- All classroom univents have been serviced over the summer and are working, however 28 rooms do not have univents.  The solution is air purifiers, that have been ordered but not yet received. NJDOE Critical Area of Operation #2.
  • Physical Barriers and Guides- Plastic guards and partitions have been ordered but not yet received for areas where it is difficult to remain socially distanced six feet apart and for “certain classroom situations that require them such as  small group instruction.”  NJDOE Critical Area of Operation #2
  • Physical Barriers and Guides – The school district has not yet received all the appropriate face shields for situations where staff members’ faces need to be seen by students.  NJDOE Critical Area of Operation #2
  • Transportation – The district has ordered plastic barriers to install between bus seat rows to allow buses to carry a maximum number of students to serve the district. NJDOE Critical Area of Operation #3
  • Cleaning and Applying Disinfectant – The district has not yet received the electrostatic sprayers needed to apply disinfectant “in a timely manner” to allow for the proposed schedule to work. NJDOE Critical Area of Operation #7.
  • Cleaning and Applying Disinfectant – The district does not have enough custodial and maintenance staff restricting the ability to clean and disinfect as required by the proposed plan, made evident by test runs of the protocols. The district finds they may need to hire additional staff. NJDOE Critical Area of Operation #7.

Greene shared a few details about the plan for remote learning.  He said attendance will be taken daily and can be characterized as “meaningful student engagement and interactions.”  The standard is flexible to each teacher will determine what it means for their students. 

“Lack of participation will be addressed by staff phone calls and/or emails to parents to address the issues and to be considered part of the course grade,” Greene said.

Some examples of student engagement shared by Greene include:

Middle School and High School students:

  • Submission of an assignment,
  • Completion of an online assessment,
  • Participation in an online forum or discussion threat,
  • Student initiated phone call, email or other digital communication or response to a teacher email,
  • Other evidence of participation determined by the principal.

Preschool and Elementary School students

  • Phone, email or other digital communication with a family member confirming student engagement,
  • Phone, email or other digital communication with a family member and the student,
  • Digital submission of completed assignments by families,
  • Supporting families by creating a daily schedule or direct contact in support of a child,
  • Other evidence of participation determined by the principal.

According to Greene teachers will be creating a grading procedure which will be communicated to students prior to instruction.  

Teachers will have the choice of working from home or providing remote instruction from their classrooms.  Teachers will also have the choice as to the format of their class; live-streamed lesson, recorded videos or both, according to Greene.

Lunches for students who receive free and reduced lunch will be able to pick up meals twice a week on Monday and Thursday only at Newton High School.

Newton joins Sparta as the only school districts in Sussex County to amend their reopening plan to go to all remote learning. While for Newton the closure is due to a lack of sufficient Personal Protective Equipment,   Sparta is faced with a lack of staff, as more than 100 have applied for leave of absence under Family First Coronavirus Response Act and Americans with Disabilities legislation.

Newton school district officials will be notifying families one week prior to any changes made to the schedule or policy on having students in the school buildings.

Greene said in his letter they are “sorry for the inconvenience this situation will cause for many families.”

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