July 30, 2020
Dear School Community,
This letter is to advise you of our reopening plans for September 2020. The top priority of the planning process is the safety of our students and staff. As we prepare for the 2020-2021 school year, there are two things that are certain. First, the 2020-2021 school year will look and feel quite different than any other. Second, as we prepare for September we must all prepare for inevitable changes and be ready to pivot at any given moment.
With the increased rates of COVID-19 and other questions and concerns regarding the reopening of school buildings the Board of Education passed a motion at the July 29, 2020, Board of Education meeting to request clarification on a 100% virtual option. In speaking with the Executive County Superintendent, I have been advised that a 100% virtual model is not an approved option from the Department of Education. At this time, the New Jersey Department of Education requires districts to offer a hybrid instructional model, as well as provide the opportunity for parents to have a 100% virtual experience. Therefore, the Florence Township School District must offer a hybrid instructional model for all students, as well as provide the opportunity for parents to choose a 100% virtual experience plan.
Please know the planning process is ongoing. We have several committees working collaboratively to address various issues on how to reopen schools safely and to provide a robust education. We know each day the COVID-19 situation is continuously changing in our county, state and nationwide. These changes directly impact our plans and the re-opening of the district.
What we know:
The health and safety of our students and staff is our first priority.
The Governor has asked schools to develop a reopening plan that includes modified, in-person instruction.
The Governor is permitting for parents to choose an all-virtual option for their child(ren).
The CDC categorizes students “mixing” with other students/staff members as a “Highest Risk” scenario for the spread of COVID-19. According to the CDC, “The more people a student or staff member interacts with … the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread.” For scheduling purposes, the CDC and Governor’s framework recommend, “Identifying small groups and keeping them together (cohorting) to ensure that student and staff groupings are as static as possible by having the same group of children stay with the same staff (all day for young children, and as much as possible for older children.) Limit mixing between groups if possible.”
Our K-8 will be assigned to cohorts and transitions will be limited. Although we have deliberately lessened the number of classes and transitions that our high school students will have each day, our high school, like high schools all over the State, will not be able to keep one group of kids together with one teacher all day. Our students’ schedules are personalized to meet their needs, and none of the classes that we have at the high school are comprised of exactly the same students.
It’s important that we communicate this to you in an honest and transparent way, because this may very well affect your decision-making for the 20-21 SY. Please visit the following link for more information: https://bit.ly/30SV1qm.
Florence Township School District Re-Opening:
Below are key points if the district is required to implement a hybrid model. These indicators are provided to you in order for you to make arrangements. However, we must be prepared that these models may change based on health concerns:
Opening day for staff will be Tuesday, September 1, 2020.
Opening day for students will be Tuesday, September 8, 2020.
At this time, we are required to offer a hybrid model to our families. Our hybrid schedule for students in Kindergarten – 12th grade includes a hybrid synchronous approach, combining in school learning and remote learning experiences.
On a hybrid model, students will be assigned to a Blue Group and Gold Group, so that only half of the students will be physically in the school at a time, for either Blue Week or Gold week.
The in-person school day will operate on a 4-hour schedule with opportunity for virtual support in the afternoon.
School hours, including proposed staggered drop-off and pick-up times, will be as follow:
Roebling Elementary School: 8:15 a.m. - 1:05 p.m.
Riverfront School: 7:50 a.m. - 12:40 p.m.
Florence Township Memorial High School 7:25 a.m. - 11:55 a.m.
Certain identified student groups will be invited to attend school every day. These groups contain students in pre-school and self-contained special education classes and will be arranged by the Child Study Team.
Students who are not in school on their scheduled day will participate in the remote learning portion of the plan and be required to follow the school day.
Students who are participating in an all virtual selection will also be assigned classes and must adhere to the school day hours for attendance.
Face coverings are required to be worn by staff and students.
Breakfast/Lunch will not be served in school, but will be available for those who qualify for Free & Reduced meals, or whose parents select/pay for breakfast/lunch items. All food items will be on a “grab and go” menu delivered to classrooms prior to the end of the school day.
Childcare is one of our most significant challenges. We are looking to provide “Before Care and After Care” programs. However, these programs may operate at significantly reduced capacity. We are also exploring the option of providing child care during the school day for students during their virtual week. However, the restrictions placed upon child care settings will limit the number of families we will be able to serve. Again, capacity will be limited.
We recognize that a hybrid modified schedule is a hardship for some families. However, because of the size of our buildings and instructional spaces it is not feasible to have a full cohort of students in our buildings at the same time while maintaining safe social distancing.
Important parts of our return:
6 feet of physical distancing guidelines throughout the classrooms and hallways
Students will be required to wear a face covering throughout the school day, including bus stops and on the bus.
We will provide time during the day to allow for handwashing, mask “breaks,” and physical movement.
Enhanced cleaning, sanitizing, and hygiene protocols will be in place in all of our schools and offices. Hand sanitizer will be available in all classrooms and in high traffic common areas. We will routinely clean high touchpoint areas while taking steps to minimize contact with these areas.
Finally, sprayers will be used to sanitize our bathrooms, school buses, and equipment on specified schedules.
A critical piece to the reopening of the school buildings is the safety of our students and staff. We will require that any child exhibiting symptoms of illness remain home from school. Children who are at home and well enough may participate in the remote learning portion. Please have a working thermometer at home to take your child’s temperature.
At this time we are required to return to the school buildings, we will be prepared to open. Additional cleaning materials, face shields, and other items have been purchased. If, based upon directives from the Burlington County Department of Health and from the State of New Jersey, the return to school buildings cannot take place in September, the District will implement full virtual at-home instruction.
All plans will depend upon input, guidance, and direction from the New Jersey and Burlington County Departments of Health and will be reviewed by the local Office of Emergency Management and our school physician.
How families can help:
Please complete the “Fall 2020 Re-Open Survey” by 11:00 p.m. Wednesday, August 5, 2020, to confirm if your child will participate in an all virtual capacity or if you wish to have your child participate in the hybrid model. We are respectfully requesting that you provide us with a binding response through at least January 4, 2021 in this second survey. It is critical that we are able to work with real numbers during our planning and scheduling processes, so that we may keep our students and staff safe to the best of our ability.
If your child will be coming to school for in-person instruction in September, please:
Begin working on face covering “endurance” with your children by getting reusable/washable face coverings that your child is comfortable wearing and gradually building up the amount of time they can tolerate wearing them.
Ensure that you have a working thermometer in your home, to take your child’s temperature. We will communicate additional information in the coming weeks about health and hygiene practices, but these small steps now will help in the fall, regardless of the type of plan we implement.
Make sure your child has a backpack in which to carry belongings to and from school every day. The lockers throughout the buildings will not be utilized. We will be limiting the sharing of supplies in school. Supply lists will be sent to parents in the coming weeks.
As an educator and as a parent myself, I know the frustrations families are encountering in regards to the ever changing events. We will continue to prepare to re-open our buildings as we are required. Safety of our students and staff will remain our top priority. Our full plan will address many other issues and considerations with respect to school routines, instruction and assessment, curricular resources, technology support, health and hygiene practices, and more.
A Special Board of Education meeting will be held on Wednesday, August 5, 2020 at 6:00 p.m. The link will be posted on the Board of Education agenda page. We thank you for your support and understanding at this time.