By MADDY VITALE
During the Ocean City Board of Education reorganization meeting Wednesday night, school officials were sworn in and the board member in charge of the COVID-19 committee laid out potential plans for returning the students to school full time.
Board members Joseph Clark, Cecelia Gallelli-Keyes and Michael James were sworn in to their three-year terms.
Clark was voted back in as board president. Board member Dr. Patrick Kane, an orthopedic surgeon who is in charge of the COVID-19 committee, was selected vice president in a 6-4 vote, replacing board member Jacqueline McAlister to the post.
Dr. Kane gave a presentation with updates from the COVID-19 committee, which met Tuesday.
Clark, who sat in on the committee meeting along with Schools Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Taylor, called it a very productive meeting.
“There are a lot of obstacles we have to get through and it is amazing when you see the team he put together,” Clark said of the COVID-19 committee. “I don’t think anyone else statewide has a team quite like this. Hopefully, they will keep guiding us.”
Dr. Kane explained the best and worst case scenarios for the school district amid the pandemic.
The district schools have remained open since September, offering hybrid learning with both in-person and virtual instruction.
Dr. Kane noted that the best case scenario would be to return the Primary School to five days of in-person instruction by Feb. 1.
“We do have the goal of returning the Primary School to February 1 of five days of instruction,” Dr. Kane explained.
However, he emphasized, there are challenges in both space for social distancing, and the need for more Plexiglass and other safety equipment to make sure all safety and health guidelines are met.
“We are also working through logistic challenges of bussing and transportation,” Dr. Kane added. “We are pretty hopeful that we will be able to return to school.”
If the Primary School is able to reopen, then the district would work on ways to make it possible for the Intermediate School and high school to reopen.
Dr. Kane emphasized that there would need to be more space for the students at the Intermediate School and that the district is in discussions with the city about potential ways for more space to hold classes.
He said that in the worst case scenario, if COVID-19 cases spike, and the district would have to go all-remote, connectivity through Comcast would be able to handle live streaming.
“Comcast assured us that if Cape May County goes into high risk and we go to full remote, we will have the ability to have livestreaming and internet will not be a problem. We are continuing to work on this,” Dr. Kane said.
The hope, he said, was that livestreaming would be available in all of the schools.
Just this week, the high school began livestreaming some of its classes.
With regarding to the COVID-19 vaccine, emergency responders in Cape May County are receiving them. The next phase would be for teachers and staff in the county to be among those who are the next priority.
“We are in contact with the county health department and the local health department,” Dr. Kane said.
He added that the school district website will begin posting more frequent updates of COVID-19 cases in the schools. Currently, the figures are supplied weekly on the district website.
“We want to make sure everyone is well-informed,” he added.
At the end of the meeting, Gallelli-Keyes commended McAlister for serving as board vice-president.
“Thank you Jackie for your insight and everything you have done for our board for the last few years,” she said. “Thank you, Dr. Kane, for coming in with your insight.”
McAlister thanked Gallelli-Keyes and added, “I’m sure Dr. Kane will do a great job and I will be happy to help.”
Clark said in his closing remarks, “Thank you to individuals who ran for office again. It is important to keep the team together. The district is moving the best way we can. We are working hard to get back up to what everyone considers normal.”
For more information, visit the Ocean City School District website at oceancityschools.org.