What follows is a message from Jeanne Howe, Superintendent of Jefferson Township Schools, regarding school reopening:

Although circumstances will be very different at the beginning of this school year, we are very excited to welcome everyone back on September 2.  

Full District Scheduling

  • All students will be on an early dismissal schedule.  This will give our custodial staff more time to clean high touch surfaces such as desks, chairs, light switches, and handles on a daily basis. Toileting rooms and common areas will be cleaned and sanitized at the end of each day. Additionally, it will provide for an opportunity for teachers to check in with students working remotely.
  • In order to maintain social distancing, we will need to reduce the number of students in our buildings at any given time.  Students will be divided into two cohorts, the Falcon Cohort and the Jefferson Cohort.
  • All preschool students will attend the morning session; however, students in AM preschool will be assigned to the Falcon cohort and students in PM preschool will be assigned to the Jefferson cohort.  The district will make every attempt to have siblings in the same cohort.
  • Students in the Falcon cohort will attend school in-person Mondays and Thursdays and will engage in self-directed, at-home learning on Tuesdays and Fridays.
  • Students in the Jefferson cohort will attend school in-person on Tuesdays and Fridays and will engage in self-directed, at-home learning on Mondays and Thursdays.
  • All students will participate in virtual learning activities on Wednesdays.
  • The first week of school will not follow this model as we do not want to start the entire district off in a virtual setting.  Wednesday, September 2 will be a Falcon Day, Thursday, September 3 will be a Jefferson Day, and Friday, September 4 will be an all-virtual day.  The regular schedule will resume after Labor Day on Tuesday, September 8.
  • Elementary students will remain in their classrooms for the entire day and teachers will rotate among the classrooms.
  • All in-person instruction will be focused on English Language Arts and Math with other subjects and specials provided virtually during at-home days.
  • Our fifth graders will also have direct science instruction during in-person lessons.
  • Recess will be scheduled at various times throughout the day to ensure social distancing guidelines are being followed.
  • Since we are not allowing students to share materials, parents are asked to send in crayons, safety scissors, colored pencils, and glue sticks for their child to help reduce the need for shared objects in the classroom.  A detailed list will be provided later in the summer.

Middle School Scheduling

  • Students in the middle school will also remain in their classrooms throughout the day with teachers rotating among the classrooms with the exception of world language and physical education.
  • The schedule will be altered to a seven-period day with electives provided virtually during at-home instruction, as students are not able to share materials or work in groups.
  • Students will not have access to their lockers at the middle school but will be allowed to carry a backpack.
  • Locker rooms in the middle school will be closed and students are encouraged to wear comfortable clothing to participate in physical education classes.

High School Scheduling

  • High School students will change for class periods and will be encouraged to socially distance in the hallways.
  • Students will not have access to their lockers at the high school and will be allowed to carry a backpack.
  • Locker rooms will be closed at the high school and students are encouraged to wear comfortable clothing to participate in physical education classes.
  • We are unable to offer Teens & Tots at the high school this year.

Transportation to and From School

  • Transportation will be provided for all students; however, to keep the number of students down on the buses, we are encouraging parents to drive their child to school if possible.
  • Our buses will be routed at a lower number of students, and siblings will be required to share a seat.
  • Students will have assigned seats on the bus and are expected to sit in their assigned seats each day.
  • Students will be required to wear a cloth face covering while at the bus stop and on the school bus.
  • t is important to note that health screenings for students will not take place until arrival at the school, not when students board the bus; however, students who visibly show symptoms of Covid-19 will not be permitted to board the bus.
  • Parents are asked to remain at the bus stop until their child has boarded the bus in case there is an issue; if parents are unable to stay, please have a trusted adult wait at the stop with them.

General Health Issues

  • Upon arrival at the school, students and staff will be required to have a touchless temperature scan; anyone presenting with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or greater will be taken to an isolation room for further evaluation by the school nurse.
  • If your child has any symptoms of Covid-19 or is not feeling well, please keep them home and contact the school.  Possible symptoms of Covid-19 include: a fever of 100.4 degrees or greater, a new cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell, and fatigue.
  • Hand sanitizer will be placed in the entrance of the building and each classroom.  Students will be encouraged to use hand sanitizer and wash their hands throughout the day.

Food and Drink

  • Students in all grades will eat a snack in their classrooms at some point during the day.  Breakfasts and lunches can be pre-ordered and will be delivered to the classrooms before dismissal.  Information regarding the process of pre-ordering and pre-paying will be forthcoming from the schools.
  • All students are encouraged to bring refillable water bottles from home to reduce the need to use water fountains.

Masks

  • All students and staff will be required to wear a mask while at the bus stop and in our buildings unless prevented from doing so as a result of a health condition.
  • Face shields are not a substitute for a cloth face covering as they do not provide enough protection from aerosolized particles.
  • Please purchase cloth face coverings for your child over the summer and have them wear the mask for short periods of time each day.  As they become comfortable, increase the amount of time they wear the mask to build mask endurance.

Social Distancing

  • All students will be socially distanced in the classroom by being seated six feet apart from one another and the movement of students through the hallways will be reduced.
  • Our curriculum and instructional practices will be changed to eliminate the need to share supplies and materials.

Virtual Learning

  • The Governor announced that parents will be able to choose an all-virtual learning option for their children and we will be implementing the above model. Students who are all-virtual will also be assigned to a cohort and will follow an early dismissal schedule.
  • Students will engage in various types of learning, mirroring the hybrid plan.
  • The district has been working on developing a solid, more robust virtual learning environment in the event the district will need to close for any length of time again.
  • We are ensuring that all students will have access to their own device so families will not need to share, helping with teacher-directed or synchronous learning.
  • Teachers will be provided with additional professional development on how to teach in a virtual classroom.
  • A detailed schedule will be provided to students with the expectation that they log-on throughout the day.
  • Parents may choose in-person or virtual related services for special education students, regardless of where the student’s instruction takes place. A letter with additional information about this option will be sent to parents by August 1.
  • Parents must let the school know by August 7 if they choose this option for their child.
  • It is important to note that parents must give the district 30 days notice if they change their minds to either move out of the all-virtual option or to move into the all-virtual option.

While this schedule is a good, slow start to the school year with social distancing measures in place, we cannot guarantee that there will not be a positive case of Covid-19 in our schools.  At this time, the district is waiting for guidance from the New Jersey Department of Education on how to respond to possible and confirmed cases.  Once that information is received, I will notify the community of the plan. 

It is important to realize that it is likely that a positive case will result in students needing to quarantine by classroom or by the students assigned to a specific bus route with very little notice.  Parents should consider working with their childcare providers now to be prepared should that happen.  Also, please understand that the school will most likely be sending students home ill, but not necessarily due to Covid-19.  

As you can tell, the return to school plan has many components and moving parts.  We all predict that there will be issues that will arise in the early stages of the implementation of the plan.  I ask that you bring any issues or concerns to your child’s teachers or principal so he or she may work to resolve them.  We cannot help you if we do not know you need help.

During the month of August, we will be communicating any changes to the plan, providing you with additional information on transition programs, solidifying the virtual learning plan, and giving you more detailed information about your child’s individual schedule.

A team of staff, parents, members of the Board of Education, community members, and administrators have spent countless hours developing a plan for reopening schools in September that best meets the needs of our community. Our reopening plan was developed based on the guidelines issued by the Department of Education in late June which requires in-person instruction.

As this guidance is fluid, our plan will continue to be adapted to the most recent guidance and status of the health of the community as needed throughout the pandemic.  While many of the decisions that are being made by our stakeholders are local decisions over which we have control, there are directives by which we must abide that are handed down by the State, Department of Health and the Governor.  Those directives are guided by Covid-19 statistics and may include a mandatory stay-at-home order or shift to all-virtual learning.

I understand that this plan to return to school cannot meet the needs of every family in Jefferson and I know that anything less than a 100 percent return to school can be a hardship for families, while some families will opt for all-virtual learning.

At this time, our first priority is the safety and wellness of our students and staff.  As the health of our community allows, the plan will be re-evaluated and adjusted.  It is my hope that as we move forward in the school year, we will be able to maintain the health and safety of our students and staff while increasing the strength of academics.

Never miss a headline!

Sign up to have The Jefferson Chronicle emails/breaking alerts and TheJeffersonChronicle.com Print Edition sent free to your inbox. Subscribe >>