NORTH CALDWELL, NJ — Following an update from the West Essex Board of Education (WEBOE) on long-distance learning and support being provided to students, Ryan Gupta, Director of Curriculum and Instruction for West Essex Regional Public Schools, presented a detailed analysis of a survey that was distributed to students and parents about the first weeks of remote learning, stating that the district is “always looking to improve” its curriculum delivery.

According to Gupta, the district received what was considered a fairly high response rate, with 73 percent of students and 83 percent of parents responding to the survey. The full results of the survey can be found on the district’s website.

In addressing the survey results, Gupta said he hoped that more students participating in required classes in “real time” rather than viewing their recorded online classes during other times.

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He also noted that the technology team has done “an incredible job,” but that the district needs “more professional development for the staff.” He stated that “everything is on the table” when the staff meets daily, and suggestions are constantly made to improve the delivery of curriculum.

According to Gupta, teachers have made themselves available during their regular class time as well as on all weekdays from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. for students who need extra help. He noted that staff members are using a multitude of platforms they are familiar with in order to provide instruction. 

He also noted that students are currently receiving two grades per subject each week as part of the remote learning plan.

The first week’s grades were based on formulative assessments, while the second week’s grades were based on summative assessments. According to Gupta, new material and live instruction was presented during the third week, and the kids “love seeing each other on the screens.”

During his committee report, WEBOE Vice President Anthony Rubinich stated that the finance committee met remotely on March 31 to discuss the recent passage of a New Jersey Assembly bill that, if approved by the Senate, would permit local municipal governments to delay payments to school districts and county governments from property taxes collected.

Discussions also included new positions for the 2020-2021 schools year, vendor payments, current transportation contracts and the loss of revenues from user fees collected from those who rent the facilities. According to Rubinich, the committee also considered deferring previously planned facility upgrades for electrical and air conditioning.

Board member Debra Sacco-Calderone reported that the curriculum committee met virtually on April 1 to discuss the survey results and plans to continue long-distance learning. Some of the topics addressed included grading and programs. 

Sacco-Calderone congratulated the administration, supervisors and staff for daily brainstorming sessions, stating that she is “very pleased” that the district is “in a good place.”

In other news, the board approved Benecard’s proposal for the district’s prescription card plan, effective for the next fiscal year (July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021).

The district was able to procure an increase of 8 percent compared to the 17 percent that Horizon was offering for a total savings of $86,000. A favorable increase from Delta Dental was approved with a two-year commitment, reflecting an increase of 2.16 percent (or $5,752) from the expiring plan.

Policies approved on second reading included an “academic integrity” policy that was amended to reflect the deletion of the pupil grievance policy and a new “district sustainability” policy that will be posted on the district’s website.