SUMMIT, NJ - Plans for the remote learning scenario brought on by the coronavirus-forced school hiatus took center stage at a sparsely populated Summit Board of Education meeting.

Board President Vanessa Primack summed up the situation that students, their parents, teachers and administrators alike are facing when she said that the District was in “uncharted territory,” but that the safety and well-being of the students and staff is “foremost on the minds” of the Board and the administration. 

Schools closed March 13 and will remain closed for four weeks, through the scheduled Spring Break week of April 6-10. A home instruction plan will begins today (March 16).

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This closure impacts all extra-curricular activities and sports as well.

Primack said that the District will heed the advice of Federal, State, and local regulators and “wait for answers and clear direction” on when the crisis will end, adding that they will “implement, adapt, and change” as the situation changes.

Superintendent of Schools June Chang said that the District is collaborating with City of Summit officials, and will take “proactive measures” to keep the Summit community, students, and staff safe.

He confirmed that there were no known active cases of the Coronavirus in the schools.

A previously-scheduled Professional Development day that was held on March 9 allowed the Administrators to meet with teachers and staff to “plan preparations for distance learning,” Chang said. 

“Different time, different measures, and we’re prepared and ready,” he said.

Chang will make an assessment before the end of Spring Break whether the schools will reopen on April 13.

Assistant Superintendent for Business Lou Pepe addressed the needs of students who qualify for the 'free and reduced' food program. This program provides breakfast and lunch for students at school. He said that, beginning on March 126, Pomptonian Food Services will be delivering breakfast and lunch to Summit High School (SHS) for pickup between 8-10 am. He said that the Kent Place Boulevard campus will serve “as a hub.”

It is “one-stop shopping” for both meals, Pepe said, so that parents will not have to make multiple trips. A Pomptonian representative will be on site each day, he said.

When asked, he said that no accommodations have been made to make Jefferson School -- where many of the population served live -- an additional food pick-up site.  He did say that the District will be mindful and will keep track of families not picking up their food.

Committee Reports

Education

Chair Donna Miller said that doctoral students from Rutgers will be surveying Summit High School 2020 graduates. The voluntary study will take place one year from now.  

She said that Director of Special Education Services Doreen Babis again met with the committee and gave an update on the mental health clinician that has been working in the District. She said that Babis is “alarmed” at the number of students identified as at risk. She said that Berkeley Heights school district has two professionals, Livingston has three, Madison and New Providence each have one, and Ridgefield and Westfield have both had one since 2014. Millburn, she said, has a school psychologist. 

Miller said that the committee looked at the state of the District mid-year goals, and was “satisfied” that they are “on course.”

Operations

Chair Chris Bonner said that the current school year budget is “looking good” and that there is “a possibility” that there will be a slight surplus. These dollars, he said, will be used for budget items that “didn’t make the cut.”

He said that the District is “fully capable” of running itself remotely online. In addition to instruction, this includes business items such as budgets and payroll.

“Summit is well prepared,” he said.

Communications

Chair Peggy Wong said that the District survey for the new superintendent is underway.

Summit Educational Association Negotiation

Chair Primack reported a positive initial meeting.

Superintendent Search

Miller gave an update and said that HYA, the national search firm that the District hired, has “incredible depth and breadth for us.” She said that there has been a “tremendously strong response” to the District survey. The survey will help create a profile of what the District should look for in a new superintendent. The public has until March 23 to take the survey

A scheduled presentation on mid-year goals by McCann was postponed, but the District said it will be available on the web site.

Public Discussion

Questions arose on how students who did not have access to the internet will operate over the next few weeks. Director of Curriculum Jennifer McCann said that those students have been identified, and will be given hard copy packets.