SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Last week, Gov. Phil Murphy announced the second extension of the statewide closure of New Jersey schools in as many months. As a result, districts such as South Plainfield will continue their plans for online instruction and other activities through mid-May. 

“The district is focused on providing our students with the best possible instruction we can in addition to making sure our students aren’t missing out on some of the other activities that make up the school experience,” said Superintendent Dr. Noreen Lishak. 

Initially, New Jersey schools were ordered to close for two weeks, beginning March 18. Murphy’s executive order was extended to April 30 earlier this month and, at a press conference April 16, the governor ordered schools to remain closed through May 15. 

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“There is no one who wants to open the schools as much as I do. [However,] we cannot be guided by emotion. We have to be guided by the facts on the ground,” Murphy said during last week’s press briefing.

Lishak told TAPinto, that, in South Plainfield, all efforts are being made to ‘ensure that students are not only involved in the instructional process but that they also have the opportunity to participate in as many activities outside the classroom as possible.’ 

All South Plainfield Schools are hosting virtual activities, including trivia nights, scavenger hunts, coffee houses, game nights, talent shows, and more. Additionally, clubs and sports are continuing to meet virtually and individual classes and/or grades have also been scheduling various activities to keep students active and engaged. 

“Throughout our schools, administrators and teachers are continuing to plan online events so that our students have some sense of normalcy,” said Lishak, adding. “We are focused on keeping our students as involved as possible.”

South Plainfield, added the superintendent, is also ‘actively continuing to work to address the stressors associated with the current pandemic; virtual counseling services are available to all students by reaching out to their school’s respective counselor. 

In order to alleviate some of the stresses students and their families are experiencing during this time, the district this week announced an adjustment to its grading system for the current 4th marking period. Details were sent to parents via email and can be viewed online at https://bit.ly/3bkAzCC

“As we work through this crisis, we continue to plan and provide instruction with compassion, taking into account all of the factors that play a part in this pandemic,” said Lishak. 

“Although our students are adapting as well as can be expected, this is a completely different learning environment. Some of our students might also be facing personal hardships, including coping with sick loved ones or financial setbacks facing their families,” she continued. “We are trying to do everything we can to support our students in the best way possible.”

All efforts, said the superintendent, are also being made to recognize the Class of 2020 with such rites of passage as a graduation ceremony and senior prom. “The district has committed to our seniors having a commencement ceremony once the governor’s executive order is lifted, and we are doing everything we can to move the prom to as late as July 31 to ensure our graduates can enjoy the milestones they have worked so hard for,” said Lishak. 

Moving forward, Lishak plans to continue updating the public through weekly video messages posted on both the district’s website and Facebook. Additionally, two evening Zoom meetings, with question and answer sessions, are scheduled; the meeting for pre-K through 4th grade will be held Tuesday, April 28 and one for 5th through 12th grade will take place Wednesday, April 29. An email with the information on the virtual meetings, including access codes, will be sent to parents via email this week. 

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