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Ridgewood Schools Reopening Plan: Transition to Phase 2

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the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Ridgewood NJ, Stacie Poelstra Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum opened her presentation on Ridgewood school districts transitioning to phase 2  by sharing COVID-19 activity level data for New Jersey, which currently has the entire state at the moderate level. The district continues to closely monitor health data as it informs our reopening plan and its various phases. Recently, the district surveyed staff, parents, and students to collect feedback on the reopening and input regarding considerations for the next phase. Additionally, our Pandemic Response Teams are meeting consistently to review our plans and progress. Department, faculty, and administrative team meetings also continue to evaluate the reopening, and Dr. Fishbein meets regularly with the Health Officer, Dr. Yankus, and other physicians.

Ms. Poelstra reviewed the data collected in the surveys beginning with PreK-5 staff, noting that the majority of teachers believe that the fall reopening has been more successful than remote instruction in the spring. The PreK-5 staff survey indicated that the most positive aspect of the reopening has been establishing relationships with students while planning for both virtual and in-person instruction has been a significant challenge. Most open-ended comments on this staff survey recommended the continuation of the current schedule.

Ms. Poelstra thanked the Federated Home and School Associaton for their collaboration on the development of the parent surveys. They met with Dr. Fisbhein, Ms. Poelstra, and a group of administrators to review and provide input on the surveys, and the extensive amount of time and effort they contributed to this process was recognized. The survey of Glen School parents indicated that 95% of respondents were satisfied with the Phase 1 experience, and the K-5 parent survey showed that 75% of respondents were satisfied with the Phase 1 experience.

K-5 parents were asked whether they would prefer to continue with the current A/B rotation with each day of the month assigned or switch to consistent days with one rotating day per week, and the responses were very close with a slightly higher percentage who prefer consistent days. When asked if parents would be in favor of maintaining the current model of instruction/schedule as it is now, 69% of parents indicated yes. About 54% of parents indicated that they would be in favor of a longer in-person school day with lunch, understanding that there will be no live teacher contact on the at-home day. Based on the K-5 data, the current recommendations are to bring all elementary special education students to the buildings for in-person instruction five days per week for the minimum day schedule beginning on October 26. Another enhancement is to integrate live streaming into the hybrid model. Also, based on discussions with health officials, the district will open the playgrounds for scheduled time slots with proper cleaning protocols and mask-wearing.

Similar to the elementary survey, 6-8 teachers indicated that establishing relationships with students has been the most positive aspect of the reopening; planning for all classes and models has been the most challenging aspect. The 6-8 parent surveys showed a 77% satisfaction rate with the Phase 1 experience with only 5% being dissatisfied, and 94% of parents would be in favor of continuing the drop-rotate schedule that was introduced on September 25. Regarding having lunch in school, 65% of parents indicated they are comfortable with their child having lunch in school. The 6-8 students were surveyed by school, and the results were very similar regarding the satisfaction rate (66-67%) and whether they are in favor of continuing with the current model/schedule (86-87%).

The 9-12 parent responses reflected a 76% satisfaction rate with the Phase 1 experience. When asked whether comfortable with their child having lunch in school, 57% of parents selected yes, but almost 69% indicated they would like to return to an open campus if we are going to have lunch in school. The 9-12 student survey showed a 54% satisfaction rating with 95% of students in favor of continuing with the current model/schedule. Less than 50% of the high school students indicated they wanted to have lunch in school, yet over 81% would want to have open campus if lunch is introduced. In the open-ended section of the survey, many students who wrote responses expressed that they did not feel comfortable eating lunch in school. Based on the data collected, the current recommendations for 6-12 are to continue with the drop-rotate schedule and to develop protocols for shared equipment in art, science, and physical education, which will enhance the student experience in these areas.

Dr. Fishbein made a statement following Ms. Poelstra’s presentation. He reminded everyone that there was no statewide plan for the reopening or for what districts do once they opened. Some districts have not yet opened for in-person instruction, and some are not planning to do so until after the start of the new year. Additionally, individual municipalities have different departments of health. About 30 municipalities work through Bergen County, but the Village of Ridgewood is fortunate to have its own health department, which is very attentive and helpful to the schools. Dr. Fishbein reiterated that we are currently experiencing an increase in infection rates locally and throughout the state. At the same time, everyone is experiencing COVID fatigue.

Our local health officials, our school physician, and other practitioners who have volunteered their time to help us through this process have expressed concern about having lunch in school. Research demonstrates that, without wearing proper PPE, the virus does linger in the air and move beyond the six feet of social distancing. Therefore, eating in school without PPE is a serious cause for concern. When considering the current rate of infection, surrounding districts closing due to positive cases, the upcoming holidays, the return of college students, and expected travel, the health professionals that we consult believe there is an increased risk at the K-12 level. Dr. Fishbein recommended that we do not extend the day at this time but continue to work on improving what we are doing within the current schedule. He added that we may hold off on considering extending the school day until after the start of the new year to protect the health and safety of our students and staff, as well as our entire community.

Click here to view the PDF of the presentation.
Click here to view the webcast and scroll to 20:35.

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