PATERSON, NJ – The Paterson Public School District has revealed its plans for reopening this fall, giving a glimpse of what back to school may look like as the summer draws to a close.

During its meeting on Monday evening, the Paterson Board of Education signed off on the plan, which was put together in anticipation of students, staff and teachers starting back in September.

For the 2020-21 school year, families will have the option of sending their children to school two days a week for in-person instruction, with the remainder of the week being carried out remotely. Parents can also choose to have their child attend school virtually five days a week, according to the district.

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Just a few of the many other changes include: requirements for face coverings and social distancing, no more than 15 students in a class, no more than two students in a restroom, no contact activities during gym class and daily health screenings.

The district’s extensive plan lays out operational guidelines on everything from cleaning and sanitizing, to sending a sick student or staff member home, to how a student can continue schooling while living with a COVID-19 positive relative.

"The point is, we will stay true t our mission and the strategic plan's goals no matter what circumstances we face in the coming school year," Superintendent of Schools Eileen Shafer said, adding that the plan only meets the state's guidance criteria but also CDC guidelines. It also, she said have been informed by contributions of teachers, nurses, union leaders, principals, vice principals, supervisors, administrators, Board of Education Commissioners, parents, students, community leaders, and leaders of institutions of higher education.

Districts across New Jersey are required to come up with their own re-opening plans, although the state Department of Education (NJDOE) has provided criteria that must be met, including mask-wearing and social distancing.

All districts must provide some form of in-person education and can offer fully remote learning options to students who choose to stay home.

“We worked together to make sure our students could get nutritious meals. Principals, teachers and staff worked extra hours to keep instruction moving forward. Individuals, organizations and churches rallied to raise money to put Chromebooks in the hands of our students. None of this work is complete. But we would not have made the gains we have made without the tireless dedication of everyone and our parents who banded together during this crisis,” Shafer said.

According to Shafer, Paterson’s plan follows the state’s criteria and was created using insight from teachers, nurses, union leaders, administrators, the Board of Education, parents, students, counselors and community leaders.

“When we asked parents in an informal survey whether they would send their child if schools reopened in the fall, the nearly 2,400 respondents split almost evenly three ways – with about 850 answering, ‘Yes,’ 850 answering ‘Undecided’ and the remainder answering ‘No,’” she said.

“That is why I want to reassure you that data will be our guide and safety will be our priority. We will not reopen any school buildings until we have all of the necessary precautions in place to protect our students and staff,” Shafer said.

During his July 24 COVID-19 media briefing Gov. Phil Murphy said, “Our goal is to provide as much flexibility as possible to local school districts to implement plans that best fit their communities. Safety and education have to go hand in hand.”

“But, we also must acknowledge that every education expert we’ve spoken to over the past few months has confirmed that in-person education is critical and that remote learning is only an acceptable substitute when absolutely necessary,” Murphy said.

Plan Highlights

Over the next several weeks, the district will host a series of virtual meetings on its live streaming platforms to ensure students and parents have a good grasp of how the plan will be implemented.

Meetings are scheduled for: July 29 (11 a.m.: elementary school teachers, 1:30 p.m.: high school teachers, 3:30 p.m.: instructional assistants, personal assistants and school secretaries), July 30 (10 a.m. vice principals, central office administrators, & supervisors, 1 p.m.: central office staff, 6 p.m.: community forum for schools in Wards 1 & 2), Aug. 3 (11 a.m. high school students, 1 p.m. middle school students, 6 p.m.: community forum for schools in Wards 3 & 4), Aug. 4 (6 p.m.: community forum for schools in Wards 5 &6)

During the first two weeks of schools, students will also be shown a video from their principals regarding changes, like classroom set-up and expectations, cafeteria set-up, social distancing, restroom use and PPE protocols.

Here are a few of the highlights from the district’s plan.


  • Students can have in-person instruction two out of five days, the remaining three days will be remote. Or, for parents who opt not to have their child return for in-person instruction, the student will be responsible for completing work remotely.

  • Students will be broken into three groups: A (In-person Monday and Wednesday, distance learning Tuesday, Thursday and Friday), B (In-person Tuesday and Thursday, distancing learning Monday, Wednesday and Friday), C (All virtual).

  • Special education classes will report to school Monday through Thursday and learn remotely on Fridays. Class sizes will range from six to 16 students.

  • Teachers will report to school Monday to Friday, as per their contractual time.



In September, students will be given a diagnostic assessment to identify areas where instruction or intervention may be needed to remediate the effects of learning loss during the 2019-20 school year. A plan to address needs will be created.


Physical Education

  • Locker rooms will be closed to mitigate risk and prohibit students and staff from confined areas with limited ventilation or places with large amounts of high contact surfaces.

  • Students will be encouraged to wear their gym uniform and sneakers to school when they have physical education class.

  • Little or no direct contact with equipment and no equipment sharing. All equipment will be cleaned and disinfected between each use.

  • Physical education teachers will be required to use outdoor space if available as frequently as possible.

  • Encouraged hand washing after outdoor activities. 

  • Non-contact activities can include: dance, line dancing, yoga, mindfulness activities, physical fitness, aerobics, fitness stations and power walking



  • Schools must identify multiple areas where recess can be held to minimize crowding. A mix of indoor and outdoor spaces should be used.

  • If indoors, doors and windows must be kept open for maximum circulation and air flow.

  • Students and staff must wash or sanitize hands before and after recess

  • Play equipment that would be passed or shared by multiple students is not allowed.

  • Recess periods will be staggered.



  • Students must have a current physical and receive medical clearance from district’s medical personnel to participate.

  • Coaches and district personnel must wear face coverings at all times.

  • Student-athletes engaged in high-intensity aerobic activity, like running and sprinting, do not need to wear face coverings. Once the activity is completed, they must wear a mask.

  • Student-athletes will not have access to locker rooms, except to use restrooms and will be provided individual duffle bags to store equipment and belongings.

  • Face coverings and temperature checks will be required to gain entry at sporting events

  • Athletic department personnel will be required to monitor capacity at sporting events.


Masks/Social Distancing Requirements

  • Students must wear masks in the classroom at all times. They are also required when students leave the classroom or are on the playground.

  • Students and teachers will have plastic partitions around their desks. 

  • Desks will be at least six feet apart, facing in the same direction. Each student will be provided a portable, tri-fold protective, see through barrier for their desk and will bring it to use in communal spaces and other classrooms. 

  • Each school will hold at least two 15-minute mask breaks a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.

  • Anyone in the hallway must maintain six feet or more between each other and must wear masks.

  • A staff member will be assigned to monitor restrooms to ensure only two students are in a particular restroom at a time and hand washing procedures are followed.

  • School administrators will broadcast daily announcements on the schools’ public address systems and will include messages to reduce the spread of COVID-19. 


  • Pre-K and Kindergarten students will each lunch in their classrooms with instructional aides serving as monitors. Pre-K to 8th grade will eat breakfast in their classrooms.

  • Elementary and middle school students will eat in the cafeterias and/or other large areas where social distancing is possible.

  • High school students will be able to receive a “grab & go” breakfast and have lunch periods in the cafeteria or other large spaces.

  • Students may not share food or utensils and food brought in from home cannot be shared or given to another person.

  • Whenever students do not have in-class instruction, meals will be given to them before they leave school. Students who are only learning remotely can pick up meals at their neighborhood school.

  • Meals will be individually pre-packaged and delivered to schools by a contracted vendor that will be a combination of fresh food, shelf-stable food and frozen food.


  • Students and staff members on buses must maintain social distancing, keeping at least six feet apart from one another and wear a face mask when entering, riding and exiting the bus.

  • In order to maintain social distancing, buses will not be operating at their full capacity. For example, a maximum of 22 students (one student per seat) will be permitted on a 54-passenger bus.

  • All field trips are canceled until further notice

Gaining Access To District Buildings

  • Face coverings are required. If someone does not have one, a mask will be provided.

  • Everyone will be required to self-administer a series of health screening questions before walking in.

  • If survey results are unavailable, staff may admit the person only after a temperature check. Anyone with a fever of 100.4 or higher will be sent home or to the designated isolation area.

  • Visitors must make an appointment

  • No personal deliveries to staffers, including food and packages. Deliveries can only be accepted outside of district buildings.

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