SUMMIT, NJ - Summit Public Schools students will be heading back to school five days per week but, for health safety reasons, their time on campus will be limited to roughly four hours per day, a mornings-only program that, according to Acting Superintendent of Schools Robert Gardella, "likely resembles our single session."
The remainder of the school day will consist of remote learning.
According to an emailed letter Gardella sent to the "Summit Public Schools Community," the reasons behind this move include:
- The inability -- due to health safety precautions -- to either serve lunch in one space or in multiple spaces, the latter dynamic ruled out as it would not provide "adequate time to clean all spaces thoroughly and efficiently prior to resuming instruction."
- The shortened in-person school day "allows our custodial staff time to properly clean our schools according to state guidelines and protocols" and "gives teachers time to work remotely with all learners on a daily basis, and connects in-person learners with their remote peers."
The District does plan to make 'grab-and-go style' breakfast and lunch meals available to every student.
According to the District, 87 percent of the more than 2,700 Summit residents that responded to its 'reopening survey' plan to send their children back to school for in-person instruction which, according to Gardella, is now tentatively scheduled to begin on September 1.
Those parents choosing not to send their children back to campus for in-person instruction will have the ability to receive a full day of remote instruction with, per Gardella's letter, "teachers’ direct instruction during the morning in-person portion" which "will be delivered synchronously for the students who are learning remotely. The length of synchronous learning will vary depending on grade level. The remote learners will have follow-up touchpoints in the afternoon with their teachers and in-person peers."
While twice stating in the letter that "there is no perfect model," and noting that "there is no blueprint for complete mitigation or for a risk-free environment," Gardella said other models were considered, including the A/B models -- which see students attending full-days on alternate days -- that have been presented as an option by the State and are being pursued by several districts.
Further, in light of the travel advisories enacted by the State of New Jersey that now apply to 31 states, the District is asking parents to "organize their travel plans accordingly and keep in mind that 14 days before the start of the school year is August 18. According to our local health officials, students must self-quarantine for a full 14 days prior to starting school. A negative virus test does not supersede the quarantine period."
Regarding the quarantine issue, TAPinto Summit contacted the District for further clarification as to the enforceability and verification of such, and the District replied by noting that it is following the State's Quarantine Advisory, "where It is expected that individuals who traveled from those designated states will follow the public health advisory to self-quarantine." As stated at COVID19.nj.gov, "the self-quarantine is voluntary, but compliance is expected" and involves taking a voluntary online survey for those who have traveled from one of the (now) 31 states on the list.
TAPinto Summit also asked the District what consideration -- when deciding which in-person learning model will be enacted beginning this fall -- was given to the effect that early-dismissal, five days per week, will likely have on households with two working parents, and the District replied that it is "currently collaborating with local child care facilities to explore ways to help our parents with this change in the school schedule. We understand parents may have to make adjustments, and we will do everything we can to provide options for support, but our model allows us to offer the continuity of instruction that we know is best for Summit learners. As mentioned in our letter, consistency is an important consideration that we did not overlook in our design. While imperfect, our model offers a reliable schedule that allows families to build consistent routines."