By MADDY VITALE
Ocean City Schools Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Taylor laid out a comprehensive reopening plan for September on the district website Thursday, outlining a blend of remote learning and in-person instruction, with a choice for all-virtual instruction as well.
Dr. Taylor also made it clear in the letter that the plan is fluid and that schools may need to close again amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Either way, the district will be prepared to offer an education that will continue the high standards delivered to pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, she noted.
“Our formidable challenge has been in striking a balance between implementing the CDC’s Health Guidelines and Considerations for Schools and maximizing in-person instruction,” Taylor explained in the letter.
She continued, “The hybrid model emerged as our best option for accomplishing this balance given the density of our populations, our efficient operations (meaning we have very few unused rooms and no idle teachers), and the range of ages and needs we must address as a PreK-12 School District.”
Parents and guardians were asked to fill out a survey and submit it to the district no later than Aug. 7, detailing what their preference would be for instruction – a hybrid or all-remote learning model.
The Ocean City district closed on March 16, a day ahead of Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order to shut down schools statewide. The following day, Ocean City schools offered remote learning to students.
Ocean City officials decided to offer the district’s first-ever social distancing high school graduation on July 9, once the governor allowed for larger gatherings again.
Prior to that, the district held a red carpet affair for graduating seniors, while adhering to CDC guidelines, as well as a drive-through After Prom celebration.
All of the activities, school officials noted at the time, were geared toward offering the students some level of normalcy and a way to make memories despite the many cancellations of end-of-year events.
Now that the district plans to reopen in the fall, it was decided that the hybrid model was the most viable option.
Students would be split into two groups. Each group would be on two days of in-person instruction and three days of remote instruction.
“Opening with a hybrid model is how our district can best comply with the health guidelines aimed at slowing and/or preventing the spread of COVID-19,” Dr. Taylor stated in her letter. “We will focus primarily on the three main principles emphasized by the CDC, state and local departments of health, and medical advisors.”
The guidelines will be as follows:
- Implement social distance guidelines of 6 feet or more, wherever practicable.
- Wear properly fitted face coverings, unless there is an exception.
- Engage in protocol and practice that promotes proper hand-washing hygiene.
And while families have the choice to opt for virtual-only instruction, Dr. Taylor stressed the importance of some in-person instruction.
“Families have the option to choose the fulltime virtual option (Ocean City Virtual Academy) for their child, but we strongly recommend that students attend OCSD with the reopening plan we have in place,” she said.
Dr. Taylor continued, “We know many academic, as well as social and emotional benefits, come from in-person schooling. However, families may ultimately feel that the full virtual option is the best option to protect the health of their child and/or loved ones. If that is the case, we will ask families to indicate that preference on the next parent survey.”
The plans are preliminary, and would need to be reviewed by the New Jersey Department of Education for compliance and then receive approval by the Board of Education on Wednesday, Aug. 5 at 7 p.m. in the Ocean City High School auditorium, before they are considered official.
“Even then, we must remain open to changes as the public health situation evolves,” Dr. Taylor said.
To view Dr. Taylor’s letter in its entirety and for all of the other information regarding the school reopening plan, visit www.oceancityschools.org.