Instruction at Westfield’s public schools will remain online through at least the end of the summer.

WESTFIELD, NJ — The Westfield school board approved the district’s new distance learning plan, which was updated to meet additional requirements set forth by the state, during its virtual meeting Tuesday night.

The board voted 8-0 in favor of the plan. Board member Tara Oporto was not present at the meeting.

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“Just last week, the Department of Education reached out and said they had more requirements, and they wanted all districts in the state to re-do their plan and add more sections to it,” Superintendent Dr. Margaret Dolan said.

With the new requirements, the state wants to ensure appropriate and equitable use of technology among all students, Dolan said, adding that this has been a consistent focus for the district.

“We have built up our infrastructure over the years, so we are in good shape with this,” Dolan said. “We also have the master technology teachers, who provide ongoing professional development for our teachers.”

“Early on, even before we had to close schools … we sent out a survey immediately to find out which families needed devices, and which families needed help with internet access,” Dolan said. She encouraged any students or families who are still in need of technological assistance to reach out to their building principal, herself or Chief Technology Officer Brian Auker.

The district has also reached out to students and families of students with disabilities and who are English-language learners in order to best address their needs during distance learning, as required by the state, she said.

Other aspects of distance learning addressed in the plan include measuring student demographics, describing the structure of distance learning and ensuring that the school buildings remain cleaned and monitored.

In addition to instruction, the state requires districts to address how it is providing free and reduced lunch for students who qualify. Dolan said that providing meals for students who need them remains vital.

“Not only does it have to be kept going, it’s even more important,” Dolan said. The district’s free and reduced lunch program is being coordinated through Business Administrator Dana Sullivan’s office, she said.

“We also are very fortunate that our Parent Teacher Council has provided us with additional resources so that we can help not just those children, but their families as well,” Dolan said. Anyone who is in need of this type of assistance should reach out to their building principal, Dolan or Sullivan, Dolan said.

Overall, Dolan said the district’s distance learning plan has undergone several improvements since first going into effect on March 16. “We’ve learned, we’ve grown, we’ve tried to make it better,” she said.

A complete overview of the district’s distance learning plans and resources, including information about the free and reduced lunch program, can be found on the district website.

Summer Learning to Remain Online

Instruction at Westfield’s public schools will remain online through at least the end of the summer, Superintendent Margaret Dolan said. This follows an announcement earlier this month that the district would continue remote learning through the end of the academic year, following guidance from the state.

“Our main focus [regarding summer programming] is on the extended school year for those students who were classified to need help over the summer,” Dolan said. “We were hoping we’d be able to bring those students in for an extended school year. That’s not possible, so the extended school year will be a virtual program.”

Dolan said a letter explaining this has been sent to families, and that teachers are continuing to develop and improve the program.

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