SPARTA, NJ – Sparta High School and Middle School students will join the district’s younger students back in school on November 2. This is the date the district originally announced in August when the plan to return to school had to change.
“I am incredibly excited for our return to school,” student representative to the board of education Kyle Neuwirth said. “While we were told the early November return date months ago, it was hard to believe we would actually achieve that goal.”
The first week back for grades six through 12 will be different because of the district calendar.
The timeline announced at the board of education meeting on Thursday calls for high school and middle school students in Cohort A will get on the bus on November 2, while Cohort B will be learning remotely.
On Tuesday, November 3 school will be closed as scheduled for Election Day and the custodians will be cleaning the buildings according to acting Superintendent Patrick McQueeney.
On Wednesday, November 4 Cohort B will be in school and Cohort A will be learning remotely.
Thursday and Friday, November 5 and 6 all school will be closed as scheduled for the New Jersey Education Association or NJEA teachers’ convention.
The following week, on November 8 the whole district will be on a Cohort A in person/Cohort B remote schedule.
“Sparta High School and Sparta Middle School will have a schedule change when we go back to hybrid,” McQueeney said. “Right now we moved the schedule to accommodate our high school students who want to sleep later. We now will move to an earlier start time for students to avail themselves of transportation.”
- Sparta High School will run from 7:22 a.m. until noon.
- Sparta Middle School will run from 7:50 until 12:20 p.m.
McQueeney acknowledged people who played a role in getting the students through the challenging start to the school year:
“I have to thank Mrs. Sawey and the SEA for their partnership…”
“I have to thank the teachers who have gone above and beyond…”
“I have to thank our administrators who continue to lead on a daily basis with an unknown situation every day…”
“I want to thank the PTO’s for having been really creative in their way that they are brining experiences for their students…”
“Finally I want to thank the board of edcation and the return to school committee. Your support and efforts have not gone unnoticed by me and the entire community.”
It has not been easy to get children into the classroom. Families found out three weeks before the scheduled start of school that students would be home for full virtual learning in September.
Teachers had applied for accommodations and leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and Americans with Disabilities Act in large numbers, McQueeney said. Initially 60 teachers applied, causing the district to have to pull the plug on the hybrid start to school in September “because there was not enough staff to open safely,” McQueeney said in an interview in August.
After the announcement of the all-virtual schedule, approximately 40 additional teachers applied for leave. McQueeney said the administrators have been having conversations with the teachers to make the accommodations they need to get students back in the classroom.
Those conversations began with the elementary school teachers and they were able to return the youngest children to the classroom. Pre school and first grade students went back on October 5. Second through fifth grade children went back on October 12.
When the district announced the all-remote format in August, they had to file an amended return to school plan with the New Jersey Department of Education. That plan was required to have a date by which students would return to in-person learning. The district said all students would be back to a hybrid schedule by November 2.
“Some of the setbacks such as sports at the high school being paused for two weeks made me skeptical that full virtual learning would come to an end soon,” Executive Student Council Historian Neuwirth said. “But the district has had certain students in school this entire time, with the younger grades successfully doing hybrid education it finally feels real.”