PISCATAWAY, NJ – Concerns over possibly transmitting COVID-19 to others meant schools would be closed on the first day back this fall for Piscataway Township Schools, making virtual, at-home instruction the only option for students in the district.

Three days into the new virtual format that is expected to be in place through the end of the first marking period in November, some parents reported starting with the at-home instructional process has gone well for their children. But others expressed concerns, saying the school day is too long to keep children engaged, and with not enough breaks.

“My 5-year-old and I have endured the most exhausting last 2 days of remote learning,” said Shannon Bienvenue who, like many others, expressed her frustrations in an email that was read at Thursday’s School Board Meeting.

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Bienvenue asked school officials to reevaluate the plan for Kindergarten instruction saying she is concerned about the expectation of having her young son sit in front of a computer for 6 hours.

“It is too much for him to handle,” she said.

“We don’t want to tie kids to a computer all day,” said Superintendent Dr. Frank Ranelli, requesting his curriculum team revisit the scheduling format that mimics the in-person school day. “That wasn’t the intent of the way we wanted to roll this out.”

He said parents should contact the schools directly if they have any issues using the technology or with their child’s instructional process.

With college applications on the line, one parent wanted to know more about the district’s decision to cancel fall sports and activities at a time when senior athletes are being scouted for scholarship opportunities.

“I’d like to express my extreme disappointment in cancelling all fall sports and activities,” said Sandra Ruoff. “You took away the last opportunity that some kids had for some sense of normalcy. Everyone seemed to be prepared to move forward safely and the board of education took away our choice.”

“The Board of Education prioritized the safety and health of the students, the student-athletes, the coaches, the bus drivers, the trainers, the game referees,” answered Ranelli, stating the district continually monitors the level of coronavirus cases throughout the state and the county.

“That’s the reason they made the decision,” Ranelli continued. “With so much uncertainty, we wouldn’t want to cause any further illness or possibly death.”

In other board matters, supporters of Ralph Johnson welcomed him back to the board after a court decision was upheld by the Department of Education Commissioner to restore his seat after removal for unfounded claims.

And Business Administrator/Board Secretary, David Oliveira was recognized for his expertise in financial reporting, leading the Piscataway Township School District to being awarded the Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting (COE) by the Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO).

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