WAYNE, NJ – Superintendent of Wayne Schools Dr. Mark Toback addressed the Board of Education on Thursday night regarding the district’s plan for a possible coronavirus outbreak.
“I wanted to start the meeting with a topic that is very pressing for this community and every community. Today we had our first planning meeting to discuss procedures regarding the coronavirus,” said Toback.
“There is a need for every school system to plan and consider how we might respond to a variety of scenarios,” he said. “The goal here in Wayne is to strike a balance. We don’t want to overreact, and we don’t want to underreact.”
“One effective way to prevent the spread of illness is to limit contact between people,” said Toabck. “Schools require close interaction with thousands of people. As a result, school closings are a scenario we may face because this is one tool that governments have at their disposal to stop the spread of coronavirus.”
Toback told the BOE that school shutdowns are scenarios that are being used in other countries and in some other districts in the United States. He also mentioned that the New Jersey Department of Education requires 180 days of school.
Toback shared a make-up calendar with the BOE and explained a plan to handle a possible mandatory two-week closure of schools by eliminating spring break and the extra days available because there were very few school closures this year, as well as extending the school year to the end of June.
“In the end, there are twenty-days we can absorb if there is a shut-down and there is a 180-day requirement,” said Toback.
The timing of the possible shut down is key. If it happens in March, the days are easily made-up. If it happens in June, then it wouldn’t be so easy.
“The other reality is that we do have the technology to continue instruction,” said Toback.
Online remote classrooms were a solution mentioned by the Superintendent.
“We know for sure that all of our students from sixth to twelfth grade have Chromebooks, so there’s no question that they have the resources and the ability to continue instruction,” explained Toback. “We also know that in the event that a student doesn’t have WIFI access, we do have some WIFI hotspots that we will be able to give to students.”
The High School staff has computers issued by the district, but middle school and elementary teachers do not have this. “So, there is an issue at the elementary level,” said Toback. “And, that’s something we have to work on.”
“Overall, we’re fairly well-situated, but we do need some more work to move ahead with some of the things we like to do,” said Toback.
Proposed at the BOE meeting that night were some ‘Professional Development Days,’ that would be used for training teachers on remote instruction in a virtual classroom setting should there be an extended shut down of the schools.
This was passed, and it was announced on Friday that next Friday, March 13, all Wayne Township Public Schools will be closed for this training and to allow the custodial staff time to complete a thorough cleaning.
“Hopefully, all this planning is not needed,” said Toback. “That is our greatest hope.”
Below is a letter that the Superintendent sent out to parents and was posted on their website:
Dear Parents, Guardians, and Caregivers:
As new information about the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) becomes available, we continue to plan and prepare for the potential of a Coronavirus outbreak in Wayne. We are making every effort to educate our staff and students about the best ways to prevent infection and avoid being exposed to the virus. Additionally, we are encouraging any members of our school community to seek medical advice and stay at home, especially if one of the symptoms is a fever.
The school district is guided by direction provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) and The Wayne Township Department of Health. In situations where residents may have come in contact with Coronavirus, reports are made to the Department of Health so an investigation can be completed and guidance can be provided after assessing public risk. This process guarantees that each case is fully investigated by health experts before any action is considered.
Yesterday afternoon, new information was released by the state to inform superintendents that all districts should prepare for a possible school health-related closure only if we are directed to close schools by either the NJDOH or the health officer of the jurisdiction. The district is working on a plan for providing remote instruction. We are also developing a website as our centralized source of information for any news or information related to COVID-19 for the Wayne Township Public Schools and will serve as a communication vehicle throughout the duration of this event. We will post local information and notices along with information from the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) and the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE). It will take us a few days to prepare the site, and we will notify you once it is made public.
We will continue to use our Blackboard Connect phone messaging system and social media feeds to alert you of any emergency or time-sensitive information. Messages might also be sent from building principals directing you to the district website. This is to maintain consistency in the information that is shared with all community members.
To best prepare for possible school closures, we are asking that you participate in a brief survey so that we can gather information about the availability of home devices and internet access for our students who are not part of the district 1:1 program or may not have internet access at home. Click here to access the survey.
As new information becomes available, we will continue to keep you informed. Sincerely,
Mark Toback, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools