By MADDY VITALE
Ocean City School district officials, like others in the state, have a lot to consider when determining how to go about safely reopening schools in the fall, combining in-person and remote learning options.
With September nearing, decisions will need to be made sooner than later. Officials in the Ocean City school district created the School District’s Return to School committees, which are dedicated to a reopening plan.
Administrators, educators, parents and students have been navigating the new normal amid COVID-19. Ocean City schools went virtual back in March along with the rest of the schools in the state per Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order.
Schools Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Taylor said in a statement Tuesday, “As we navigate these uncharted waters of returning to school in the fall, I know that we are all committed to the same goals and that is to provide a quality educational program for our students. We are all in this together as we face the challenges put before all of us in this unprecedented time.”
She also discussed the hybrid model of remote and in-person learning in a letter posted on the district’s website www.oceancityschools.org.
In it, she explained how the district was looking at the hybrid model to continue delivering high-quality education to the students.
“The School District is looking at how we can feasibly offer options to our parents/guardians regarding an instructional model for September, both remotely and in-person,” she stated. “Our hybrid in-person plan will strive to meet the 6 feet social distancing guideline.”
She added in the letter, dated July 17, that within the next few weeks the district will present to families the proposed remote and in-person plans.
At that time, families will also receive a survey for selecting the best available option for their child.
“School District’s Return to School committees continue to develop details for our Reopening Plan. We will provide you updates on our progress and decisions through letters, Swift K-12 messenger, our district website, and social media posts,” Dr. Taylor explained in the letter.
She also emphasized that the district must submit a reopening plan to the New Jersey Department of Education for review. The tentative plan will then be presented at the Board of Education meeting at 7 p.m. on Aug. 5 at Ocean City High School.
“Our committees know that there is no perfect plan and that many of the decisions we are making are based on set guidelines that are out of our control,” Dr. Taylor wrote. “However, we are using our surveys of both parents and staff to work within the parameters we’ve been given to craft the best plan for the Ocean City School District.”
On July 24, the state DOE issued clarifying guidance to allow parents to select fulltime remote learning for their children for the 2020-2021 school year.
Back in June, the state created “The Road Back: Restart and Recovery Plan for Education.”
In it, the state emphasized that schools should prepare plans to open in some capacity for in-person instruction. Since its release, the department received feedback from many parents who wanted a greater voice in the decision-making process of whether their child should return to in-person learning, according to a release on the governor’s website.
“My office and the Department of Education are committed to working with our families, educators, and administrators as we navigate the unique challenges that the 2020-2021 school year will bring,” Gov. Murphy said in the July 24 release.
He continued, “We will continue to communicate with our districts and will work diligently to find solutions that prioritize the safety of our students and staff. Today’s guidance will allow parents greater flexibility to make the choice they feel best suits the needs of their families.”
Dr. Taylor stressed in her letter that the district will follow the governor’s mandate and state DOE’s guidelines, “to bring our students back for in-person instruction as safely as possible, but we also acknowledge that some families may not be comfortable with an in-person return.”