COVID-19 has redefined the way we live in ways unimaginable as we have never dealt which a pandemic of this magnitude in our lifetime. K-12 students across our nation are currently missing face-to-face instruction due to COVID-19 while educators face a complex decision concerning the amplification of the achievement gap between students of color and their counterparts. Policymakers will need to shift from crisis management to long-term solutions to ensure education equity is at the forefront of every school, district, and state-level decision. As such, the Plainfield Public School District has developed a research-based educational plan, as recommended by the NJDOE, to meet the needs of our students as we transition to a hybrid-remote learning model. The greatest challenge were classrooms, hallways, buses, schedules and extracurriculars. These are virtually every aspect of the school day which we had to fundamentally alter in preparation of our students returning. As school leaders it was mandated that we ensure social distancing—limiting group sizes, keeping students six feet apart, restricting non-essential visitors, and closing communal spaces. No small task as they are counter to how schools operate, with teachers and students working together in close quarters, children socializing throughout the day, and the buildings serving as a community gathering space. Yet, our Superintendent, Dr. Mitchell proactively met the crisis assembling a diverse group of stakeholders to research all aspects of reopening our schools and defining our mission to create a plan for reopening the Plainfield Public School District.
While planning we had to consider that teachers are preparing for an online platform, parents are addressing work responsibilities and caring for and assisting their children with school. Our students face isolation, anxiety about this nebulous virus, and uncertainty about their future. Therefore, it was clear the development of our plan faced challenges of which the most ominous was trying to abide by the recommendations of the Center for Disease Controls and those from our Governor. The current situation is unprecedented, and we were driven to create a plan that allowed for some semblance of normalcy in a new normal. What we do know is our plan supports the students’ social and emotional needs after the huge disruption of COVID-19. Notwithstanding our students may face greater food insecurity, loss of family income, loss of family members to the coronavirus, and fear of catching the virus themselves. This is a 100-year occurrence which, no one ever imagined would happen in our lifetime. The Plainfield Public School Reopening Initiative is a fluid document however, we have made decisions about teachers, support staff and students that support pedagogical quality and equity ensuring that our students receive personalized and engaging instruction during this critical time. New evidence shows that the school closures caused by COVID-19 could exacerbate existing achievement gaps which supports teachers being in the classroom. In class instruction leveraged with simultaneous online remote learning is foundational in our plan to address the social-emotional needs of our students. The Plainfield community is an essential partner in our battle against COVID-19 and together we will provide a student-centered learning experience for all of our students.
Principal Maxson Middle School