PARAMUS, N.J. — Students attending Paramus' Pre-K through 12 school district will be welcomed back to their respective school in phases come the first day of school on September 3, Superintendent Sean Adams said.
In following the New Jersey Department of Education’s “The Road Back” plan, phase one will last four weeks and serve as a transitional period to get the student body acclimated to their new learning environment, which will look very different from earlier this year. Since students were forced to leave the district in March following the lockdown put in place by Governor Murphy amid the start of the coronavirus pandemic and make the switch to remote learning, virtual learning will also be incorporated into the students’ schedule along with in-person learning. During Phase One, more learning will be conducted virtually with less time in the school building, Adams said.
A new website called “Paramus Community Connections” has been specially designed for parents and faculty containing updated information regarding the September 3 reopening of schools.
Within the next two weeks, each student will receive a schedule denoting the days and half-days they will come into school, and the days or half-days they will remain at home. During a weekly rotation of cohorts, about half the student body will be in each school at a time, while the other half will be working from home as they had been doing this past spring, Adams said.
The administration has also worked to ensure that siblings who are scattered in schools throughout the district will have schedules that line up to make it easier for parents to pick them up together at the end of the school day.
Classrooms will look and feel a lot different. As opposed to the previous size of roughly 25-28 students in one classroom, that number will be slashed roughly in half to 12 students per classroom. Desks will be spaced six feet from each other per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, and fastened with a portable lightweight transparent partition which each student in Grades 5 through 12 will carry with them to their classes. Virtual tours of these new classrooms and safety protocols will be available on the Paramus Community Connections website in the coming days.
Since students in Grades Pre-k through 4 do not rotate classes and are assigned their own desk or seat at a table, they won’t need to carry their own partition with them. The flexible partition will be U-shaped to fit the circumference of each desk and tall enough to cover students' faces to allow for full protection from any contact with outside germs.
“It’s very simple for students to use,” said Adams, adding that students will be schooled on how to use the partitions as part of the educational component of the district's transition plan. In addition to partitions, students will don facial masks, a practice mandated by the governor upon entering establishments such as supermarkets and institutions. Accommodations will be made for students who are unable to wear masks due to medical conditions to ensure their own health and safety in addition to students around them. Teachers will receive a package at the beginning of the school year containing PPE, or personal protective equipment, for their own safety.
Each classroom will also be equipped with newly-installed sensory hand sanitizing dispensers so children can keep their hands germ-free at all times.
Reopening committees, a large percentage of which comprise district parents, will work to see through and proactively approach any challenges the reopening of schools may face in addition to ensuring the students adhere to the protocols. The committees will break into subcommittees to address three core components: Conditions for Learning; Leadership and Planning; and Continuity of Instruction.
“The primary goal is ensuring health and safety for our students and staff,” noted Adams.
Upon September’s completion, the district will enter into Phase 2, which will begin to allow for more time in the school building. The carrying out and continuation of Phase 2 and phases thereafter are contingent upon the most recent Covid-19 data, Adams said.
"As the health situation improves, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the state, the county, and borough health officials determine that our students can start entering into the next phase, students can increase the amount of time they’re in the building,” said Adams. “The goal is to get students back in the building 100 percent. When that happens is determined by health guidelines. It's certainly possible into the second or third phase where students are in school a lot more.”
Adams said it is unclear if phase three will roll out in the 2020-21 school year, and that the district is prepared for a potential second round of Covid-19 and having to transition back to remote learning.
Despite the ongoing pandemic, Adams said he’s “entirely optimistic” about the success of the upcoming school year, whatever that may bring.
“Within the constraints of health and safety — whatever that may look like — is going to be done in a way that makes it a maximum benefit,” he said.
Updates will be made weekly at Paramus Community Connections and parents will be receiving an email blast about instructions for the upcoming school year.