By MADDY VITALE
Gov. Phil Murphy and Department of Education Commissioner Lamont O. Repollet detailed a plan on Friday for the “The Road Back: Restart and Recovery Plan for Education,” to help schools reopen in the fall.
That means schools will open for in-person instruction at the start of the school year in September.
In a post Friday on the governor’s official Facebook page, Murphy commended the schools.
“There will be hurdles to overcome in a short period of time,” he said. “But, our schools have always proven themselves up to the challenges before them — just look at how they performed throughout these past three months.”
Ocean City Schools Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Taylor said the district will be ready to reopen in the fall and has been developing a fluid plan for weeks. Schools closed two days before the governor’s official March 18 executive order.
By March 17, remote learning began in the district.
Dr. Taylor outlined information Friday for students and their families in a letter on the district’s website www.oceancityschools.org.
“Today, the state issued guidance for reopening schools in September. We now move forward with our planning, greatly optimistic that we will be together, in person, to start the 2020-2021 school year,” Dr. Taylor said.
She continued, “The Ocean City School District is uniquely positioned to follow many of the New Jersey Department of Education’s recommendations, especially increasing opportunities for outdoor learning.”
The governor explained there will be many health and safety guidelines to follow for the safety of students, faculty and families.
Some of the measures include face coverings for faculty and visitors, which will also be “strongly encouraged” for students, social distancing in the classrooms and thorough cleaning and sanitizing of school buildings and school buses.
Other provisions include staggering meal times and recess as well as “cohorting,” in which schools may keep small groups of students and staff together to limit exposure to large groups.
“The guidance announces that, absent a change in public health data, public schools will open for in-person instruction and operations in some capacity at the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year,” Murphy pointed out in a news release.
Dr. Taylor said Ocean City’s plan follows what the governor has repeatedly said, to “get outside.”
That is exactly what they will do, she noted.
“Our Ocean City School District Return to School (RTS) Plan will include steps to further use our beaches, boardwalk, wetlands and gardens as extensions of our schools.”
She said over the weeks the district has been “laying the groundwork for a thoughtful, well-developed plan to bring our students back in September safely. Leading that effort is our OCSD RTS Committee. We have conducted research and discussed viable ideas and plans for our reopening.”
The committee will meet to review the state’s guidelines and incorporate them into the initial framework for our OCSD Return to School Plan, Dr. Taylor pointed out.
While virtual learning has become the norm over the last three months, Dr. Taylor said, there will be a continued focus on “customized learning.”
“We have also established School RTS (Return to School) Committees to ensure that a high level of preparation and preparedness extends districtwide. We also have learned much in our transition to remote learning that will help us move forward to offer students more customized learning experiences that allow for both extra supports and added challenges,” she said.
Dr. Taylor continued, “All committees are working on assigned objectives and will eventually come together to share, blend, and finalize ideas into one comprehensive OCSD RTS Plan. This plan will contain options, as we know flexibility is important should we need to respond to changing state directives required to manage the spread of COVID-19.”
Repollet, the state education commissioner, commended educators for doing an “amazing” job with remote learning.
“However, too many parents feel that remote-only instruction isn’t working for their child, and too many children are falling behind,” he explained. “It is becoming abundantly clear that children need to return to a school environment in some capacity, and we need to do so safely. This is a matter of educational growth, and it’s a matter of equity.”
For more information and to view in its entirety “The Road Back: Restart and Recovery Plan for Education,” visit www.nj.gov/governor.