NORTH CALDWELL, NJ — During its first Zoom meeting held earlier this week, the West Essex Board of Education (WEBOE) provided an update on the district’s initiative to provide long-distance learning and additional support services available to the students.
Although the district will hold its spring break as scheduled from April 10 to April 17, WEBOE President MaryAdele Wojtowicz reported that the district will “continue to follow the state guidelines and continue distance learning until directed otherwise by the governor.”
“I want to thank the parents and students for their patience and resilience during this time and adapting to our new normal of learning,” she said. “I know they are missing their school activities, walking the hallways, sports and just being with friends.”
Superintendent of Schools Damion Macioci also extended gratitude toward students and parents as well as all staff members for “making [the] first three weeks of distance learning a success,” stating that their “continued cooperation, patience and support is greatly appreciated.”
“I recognize the challenges everyone is facing and the burden our families have taken on, said Macioci. “It’s reassuring; however, to know our West Essex staff continues to work with resilience and determination, so our students can advance and thrive.
“The passion, creativity and commitment that faculty and staff have demonstrated is truly remarkable. Our educators are exploring new technologies, obtaining advanced resources and implementing virtual programs to enhance communication, improve instruction and provide varied opportunities for our students.”
Wojtowicz acknowledged several faculty members as well, specifically thanking the custodial/maintenance staff who have “continued to monitor our empty buildings to make sure they are running properly and have no issues” as well as Macioci, Business Administrator Melissa Kida and all West Essex administrators, supervisors and teachers and guidance staff for their leadership in this effort.
“They were given a few days to come up with a school closure distance learning plan, and by the end of that same week our schools were closed,” she said. “What we thought would be two weeks has turned into indefinitely.
“Our staff has been working seven days a week. They have been exceptional and have done an outstanding job continuing to educate our students during these challenging times. They are truly dedicated to the students and their success.”
The board president also spoke recognized some West Essex science teachers who made the district aware of medical supplies in their classrooms—such as masks, gloves and goggles—that have since been donated to local police departments, the West Essex First Aid Squad and Saint Barnabas Medical Center.
To those dealing with serious illness or the loss of a loved one, both Macioci and shared the district’s condolences to the West Essex and surrounding communities.
“Please take care of yourselves and your families,” said Macioci. “Although we are four towns, we are one school community, and we are in this together.”
In his update on remote learning, Macioci reported that extra-curricular activities have continued through virtual experiences as the coaches and club advisors interact electronically with the students. The students are also able to access virtual field trips, and guest speakers have been made available to them as well.
"As soon as we receive guidance from the Commissioner of Education and Governor, we can revisit the events that were postponed,” said Macioci, who noted that all school have been postponed, but assured that the district will make every effort to reschedule any events that it can.
According to Macioci, the district’s support team is available to all students, families and employees for emotional assistance during this critical time. To access these individuals and other mental health resources, the district has created a link on its website and provided the information to members of the school community. This COVID-19 Information Link was also created to disseminate information to the community.
Macioci concluded that the district is prepared and equipped to deliver a distance learning program for as long as necessary.
More from this meeting, including an announcement about the Students of the Month and an analysis of results from a recent survey distributed to parents and students will be shared in the coming days. The next board of education meeting is scheduled for May 4.