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Ridgewood Board of Education Focuses on Getting Back to School

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the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Ridgewood NJ, at the Ridgewood Board of Education meeting on Monday , Ms. Poelstra the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum first shared the proposed Return to School Plan at a Special Public Meeting on Thursday, July 23. She repeated the presented at the July 17 Regular Public Meeting, as originally scheduled.  At the start of the presentation, Ms. Poelstra shared data about the severity of the pandemic in New Jersey and how the actions we have taken have helped to mitigate the spread of the virus. She then reviewed the timeline from the mandatory emergency school closing on March 13 through July 31 when the district reopening plan is due to the County for review and approval. In May and June, administrative subcommittees were created to begin to think about what the district would need to do to transition back to school. The New Jersey Department of Education released The Road Back: Restart and Recovery Plan for Education on June 26. Since that time, the district started to develop its plans based on the guidance. This process involved administering staff and parent surveys, holding subcommittee meetings, attending NJDOE/Legal One webinars, collaborating with neighboring districts, and organizing comprehensive professional development for teachers over the summer. Last Friday, Governor Murphy announced that families will be allowed to choose an all-remote option, which is another challenge facing school districts. A few days ago, the deadline for the submission of the reopening plan was changed from July 27 to July 31. We still not have a checklist or template from the NJDOE about what needs to be included in the plan, yet districts are required to share our schedules with all stakeholders four weeks before the opening of school. This timeline reflects the rapidly changing situation, and we must be flexible and adaptable. Our goal is to have an education plan in place that allows our students to continue to learn while meeting the required health and safety standards.

The Road Back focuses on four areas: conditions for learning, leadership and planning, policy and funding, and continuity of learning. Within those four areas, there are ten critical areas of operations that districts must examine and take into consideration as the reopening plans are developed. While there are some recommendations and descriptors in the guidance, the bulk of the decision making is placed on the districts. Based on the ten critical areas of operations defined in The Road Back, the specific roles and responsibilities of the district subcommittees were determined, and school committees will be working on building specific logistics and operations through August.

Ms. Poelstra reviewed the anticipated minimum standards from the State of New Jersey that we must abide by as outlined in The Road Back. She pointed out that we are required to social distance within the classroom to the maximum extent practicable, which means that our classrooms will look very different. Face coverings are required for all staff, but face coverings for students is a local decision. Students and staff will be screened every single day prior to coming into the building using new software to gather daily health symptoms data. Additionally, entrance into the buildings will be spaced out, and temperature screenings will be required. Every classroom will have a hand-sanitizing station, and many other protocols are being put into place to help us be as successful as possible in phase 1 of our tiered model.

Ms. Poelstra introduced the phased approach to bringing kids back to school. Phase 1, which is planned for September 1 through October 16, would include 50% reduced capacity, an A/B rotating schedule, and half-session school days to avoid lunch. She explained that the district feels very strongly that our success in phase 1 will give us the best chance to have students continue to attend school in-person. Assuming we are successful in phase 1, then the district would determine how to move into phase 2 and eventually phase 3.

Over 6,000 responses were received from the most recent parent survey, and that data indicated that 83.6% of families were comfortable sending their child(ren) back to school in September. A slightly higher percentage of families indicated that they preferred the alternating A/B schedule model versus the rotating morning/afternoon model. Regarding transportation, survey results showed that half of the parents will have their child continue to ride the bus.

Ms. Poelstra presented the hybrid model for the district which is an alternating A/B schedule (A Day: A-K and B Day: L-Z). This model allows family units to be kept together with children in a family attending school on the same days. However, there are some exceptions that may work outside of the A/B rotation. The Elementary Hybrid schedule presented has instruction from 8:45 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. Ms. Poelstra explained what the in-person and remote learning days would look like. Students will engage in in-person learning in all academic areas, and remote academic work will be an extension of live instruction. On the remote learning days, students will have live virtual sessions with specials teachers, as well as a virtual check-in with the classroom teacher. Ms. Poelstra emphasized the following health and safety measures that were taken into consideration when developing the models: no lunch, no recess, limited movement throughout the building, a four-hour threshold for masks, and ample time to implement cleaning protocols. She then shared the remote schedule should we have to move to an entirely virtual model, pointing out that based on parent feedback this schedule has a significant increase in live instruction on a daily basis.

Next, the middle school hybrid plan was introduced. The middle school hybrid schedule would have in-person instruction for half of the students on the A/B rotation, while the other half has remote instruction. All students would have virtual instruction in the afternoon, making it a full-day from 8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. with office hours until 3:15 p.m. It is important to note that for virtual instruction in the afternoons, students will be required to attend at the assigned class time and have their cameras on during instruction. Also, attendance will be taken in class. The remote schedule follows the four-day rotation with three periods in the morning and three periods in the afternoon followed by office hours. Again, teachers will do virtual live instruction using Google Meet or Zoom for all scheduled classes for at least part of the period with a check-in at the end.

The high school hybrid plan is a full-day of instruction with all periods meeting every day. Similar to the middle school schedule, all morning classes will follow the A/B rotation and all afternoon classes will be virtual. Similarly, it is important to note that for virtual instruction in the afternoons, students will be required to attend at the assigned class time and have their cameras on during instruction. Also, attendance will be taken in class. The remote plan follows the four-day rotation with three periods in the morning and three periods in the afternoon. All teachers will hold live sessions via Google Meet or Zoom for at least part of the period with a check-in at the end, and attendance will be taken in real-time for all class periods.

Ms. Poelstra highlighted some other ways that we have been preparing for reopening in September. Over 300 teachers participated in summer professional development focused on remote instruction enhancement and collaborative unit revision. Additionally, Lauren DePinto, Coordinator of School-Based Mental Health, ran two sessions for Counselors, Child Study Team members, and Specialists on Trauma-Informed Care and Building Relationships in Virtual Settings. Ms. Poelstra applauded our teachers who took advantage of this opportunity so they feel ready to welcome our students back in September. The district also purchased a variety of instructional tools that support a blended learning environment including RazPlus, Kami, Screencastify, and EdPuzzle.

Students enrolled in self-contained Special Education programs will be attending school in-person every day for a half-day. AlphaBest will also run before and aftercare programs, and students may attend these programs on the day they attend school in-person.

On Tuesday, July 28 a letter will be emailed to parents with a video link of this presentation, a parent FAQ, hybrid and remote schedules, and a survey. Results from the parent survey and our staff survey will be analyzed to determine how to meet the needs of both our students and staff.

As the governor shared in mid-July, parents will have the option to select a remote model of instruction that districts will be required to implement. The details of that model are incumbent upon the number of families who select the remote option, along with the number of staff who are unable to return to school for the hybrid model. We will need to build the specifics of this model based on survey results, and we will do our best to create that model as quickly as we can once we have the data that we need. While we will aim to build a model that is closest to the full district remote model, the extent to which we will be able to exactly mirror that model is uncertain until we know the number of students, number of teachers, certification requirements, and other pertinent details that will come through in the survey results.

Click here to view the PDF of this presentation.

Click here to view the webcast and scroll to 38:25

3 thoughts on “Ridgewood Board of Education Focuses on Getting Back to School

  1. Bureaucrats, administrators…they definitely get paid by the word. No parent will suffer through this mess of information relating only to process. Moreover, the state is asleep at the switch. The districts and the NJEA know this and are confident that any scrutiny they receive for this mumbo-jumbo will end up being untimely and will only be partial. Nothing more than a post-game wrap-up. Therefore, they do as they please, everyone gets paid, nobody gets laid off or rendered superfluous, and the quantity of information absorbed by the students in the form of “learning” will continue to wither and shrink.

    For years now anyway, the school districts have been self-servedly focused not on the “what” of substantive learning of facts, history, information, theory, proven concepts and algorithms, classic and inspirational literature, proper grammar, the detailed ins and outs or “mechanics” of high-quality English language expression, etc., but the “how” as evidenced by their scandalously loose use of the empty shell of a term they call “process” into which the districts pour whatever suits their fancy. This fall, we’ll see this scam-ridden pedagogical shell game shamelessly played in U.S. school districts at the highest levels mankind has ever seen. Our superintendent will be happy to show us how the big boys and girls do it!

  2. No matter how we do this it’s going to be a pain in the ass. But in the end much more important the safety of our children. And the safety of all the school workers.

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  3. My the looks of who is coming out of the school district over the past ten years. Needs to be revamped.

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