ROXBURY, NJ — The Roxbury Board of Education on Monday postponed until July 30 voting on the school administration’s proposed plan for reopening township schools in September.
The 6-3 vote to table the decision came after nearly four hours of discussion about the plan at a special virtual board meeting that included an unusual level of public participation.
The move to postpone the decision was spearheaded by Roxbury School Board Member Dan Masi who noted he got a copy of the document only several hours before the meeting and wanted time to read it before casting a vote.
The board expects to meet virtually Thursday at 6:30 p.m. to make its decision. Roxbury Schools Superintendent Loretta Radulic stressed to the board the importance of having a plan approved quickly, noting the document — which must be reviewed and approved by the county schools superintendent — is needed so the district can begin preparing for the fall.
During Monday’s marathon of a meeting, the board and public heard Radulic make a presentation, and answer questions about, the proposed reopening plan. An overview of the document, released last week, said the plan calls for starting the new year offering two options to parents who do not choose homeschooling.
The first is a combination of virtual and in-person instruction wherein students would get four hours of in-classroom instruction two days each week augmented by virtual instruction on all Mondays.
The second option would be fully virtual, at-home instruction.
Parents Pressed to Make a Choice
At Monday’s meeting, Radulic implored parents to review the plan, decide which option they want for their children and let the district know by July 31. This should be done by logging in to their children’s Genesis Parent Portal accounts and completing the form found in the Forms section called “2020-2021 School Year Questionnaire,” said the superintendent.
Radulic said the plan, if approved by the school board, “is subject to change.” Those changes could range from “little tweaks” to more substantial alterations “depending on the announcements that the governor makes to the community at large," she said.
About 400 people logged-in to Monday’s remote school board meeting and more than 200 posed questions, either by typing or clicking on the virtual microphones.
Several agreed with Roxbury School Board President Carol Scheneck’s questioning about why the administration decided to abandon a plan to take temperature readings of all students coming to school buildings. The administration now proposes a plan that would have parents to fill out health questionnaires every day; essentially an honor system to report possible exposure to the coronavirus or symptoms of COVID-19.
Radulic said the decision was based on extensive discussion with health, legal and facilities experts, explaining that forcing students to go through temperature-taking kiosks would create significant problems including delays, and might raise privacy concerns.
Several other parents took issue with the proposed plan’s call for only eight hours each week of in-person teaching (for students who do not choose the fully virtual option).
Radulic said this is being proposed because the district, by law, would have to offer students lunch if the time in school exceeded four hours daily. That would create a logistical complexity, given a number of factors including the need for social distancing and the wearing of masks.
School administrators said they will, on Tuesday, upload to the district’s website a recording of Radulic’s reopening plan presentation. They also said they will attempt to pore over all the questions and answers from Monday’s meeting and compile a new FAQ that will be made public.
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