the staff of the Ridgewood blog
Ridgewood Nj, at the Friday August 28th Special Public Meeting of the Ridgewood Board Education meeting the board focused on the reopening of Ridgewood public schools. Mr. Lembo shared that the Special Public Meeting was scheduled to get more information and to discuss questions pertaining to the reopening plan. Dr. Fishbein and Ms. Poelstra gave a reopening plan update presentation. Dr. Fishbein began by thanking the administrators and teachers for their hard work and creativity in making this reopening possible. A revised 2020-2021 school calendar will be approved at the August 31 Regular Public Meeting. To give teachers an extra day to prepare for the start of school, a Professional Development Day was added on August 31 and removed from October 12. Schools will be closed on October 12 for teachers and students. The district has worked very hard on logistics and operations, and the buildings are ready for the return of students. The Pandemic Response Teams have taken walkthroughs of the buildings, and the response from those teams was very positive. Our reopening plan was submitted to the state, and the three areas for revision (recess, cleaning manual, and technology services) were addressed. The cleaning manual is posted on the district website.
The district has faced two particular challenges regarding reopening: 1) the requirements for flexibility in models of instruction, and 2) staffing due to leaves, particularly at the 6-12 level where teachers have subject-area certifications. Ms. Poelstra elaborated on the challenges posed by transitions between the remote and hybrid instructional models, and she emphasized that we need to prepared for continuous shifting in sections. Additionally, as we accommodate transition requests, parents should expect their child’s teacher, and possibly school, to change during the year. Protocols for Requests to Transition between Models of Instruction can be found on the Reopening Our Schools page of the district website. It is also important to note that it may take up to ten consecutive school days to accommodate these requests. Ms. Poelstra shared the number of elementary students who will be starting the school year in the hybrid model and the remote model, and she pointed out that our “remote school” is our largest elementary school this year. At the secondary level, the number of remote students is significantly lower; however, staffing issues pose more of a challenge. Currently, there are approximately 40 staff members who will be teaching remotely. In some instances, students who are in the hybrid model may have a substitute in the room with the teacher zooming in for instruction.
Dr. Fishbein explained that the New Jersey Department of Education provided a Checklist for the Reopening of School 2020-2021. This checklist was distributed after reopening plans were due; however, upon receiving the checklist, our reopening plan was modified accordingly. Dr. Fishbein reviewed some of the plan components. Educational spaces have been configured to adhere to the requirement of social distancing, and hallways have been marked with lines to help students maintain social distancing when moving between classrooms. At this time, students will not be using shared supplies or equipment. Dr. Fishbein also explained that one component is to ensure facilities have adequate ventilation. The univents in our buildings have MERV 8 filters, and the rooftop units have MERV 13 filters. Dr. Fishbein shared that he doesn’t know of a district that has MERV 13 filters throughout their buildings. Merv 13 is a hospital-level filtration. If having MERV 13 filtration was a standard, all schools would have to be closed in order for the changes to be made. Our task was to open schools and have properly functioning ventilation, which we do. Students will be wearing masks unless they are medically exempt. All medical documentation will be reviewed by our school physician. Hand sanitizer will be available in every classroom, and hand sanitizer stations have been installed at entrances and throughout the buildings. Students will be wearing masks and following social distancing to the greatest extent possible on buses.
Health screening will be conducted daily through an online questionnaire that must be completed prior to arriving at school, and temperatures will be taken at the buildings. Families received a practice questionnaire via email on Friday, August 28. Dr. Fishbein reminded everyone that families and staff are asked to wear their own mask, and he noted that, based on an email he received, valve masks should not be worn. Plexiglass has been installed in critical areas, and all faculty members will receive a face shield and disposable masks. The district is working closely with the Village of Ridgewood Health Officer/Director regarding contact tracing and response to students and staff presenting symptoms, and our school nurses will work directly with the Health Department. A three-step cleaning process is used in all buildings, and the custodial staff will be cleaning high-touch areas during the day. Water fountains will be closed, but the hands-free water filling stations may be used to refill water bottles. Free and reduced lunch will be delivered to students’ homes. Locker rooms will not be used at this time; therefore, students will wear clothes appropriate for physical education. The district will continue to respond to new guidelines and evolving conditions.
The Board discussed questions pertaining to the reopening plan. No action was taken.