District to revisit plans in mid-September

The following message is from Jeanne Howe, Superintendent of the Jefferson Township Schools:

Dear Parents and Guardians:

On July 31, I shared with the community how our team of staff, parents, members of the Board of Education, community members, and administrators spent countless hours developing a plan for reopening schools in September, which at the time, best met the needs of our families. Our reopening plan was developed based on the guidelines issued by the Department of Education on June 26, The Road Back, which required in-person instruction. Many of the decisions made by our stakeholders were local decisions which we had control of, but there were directives that were mandated by the State, Department of Health, and the Governor.

Over the past five and a half months I have stated that “we are in unprecedented times”. Our end of the school year in June was unprecedented and unfortunately, our return to school in September will continue to be unprecedented. On July 28, I submitted our district’s plan to the Department of Education, which was approved on August 24.

At this time, approximately 30% of our students will be educated remotely, an overwhelming indication that our families are concerned about a physical return to school at this time, which greatly impacts our staffing capabilities. Additionally, a surge in teacher leave requests and an inability to attain qualified certificated replacements due to shortages in substitute teachers has compounded this difficult situation. There have been very few, in some cases, no applicants to fill vacant positions.  The Governor’s Executive Order, Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) entitles staff faced with significant child care issues up to 12 weeks of leave; Jefferson currently has thirteen FFCRA requests. Nineteen staff members have been approved for COVID-19 medical accommodations, and seventeen staff members are on non-COVID-19 medical leaves of absences.

Consequently, we have no choice but to start our students in an all-virtual capacity through September 30 with the exception of certain groups of students, as we cannot adequately and safely cover our buildings with all of our students returning. Only our Pre-K students, self-contained students with disabilities, and our English Language Learners will be offered in-person instruction using the cohort model as originally planned. I have advised the Department of Education of our plans and the plan will be updated on the district website. The district will reevaluate our remote plan by September 15, based on the current circumstances at that time. During the month of September, our remote learning students will receive their education in a cohort model with all-remote learning.  Please revisit the Virtual Handbook for parents on the district website to review our expectations for remote learning. Please be aware that due to staff shortages, your child’s teacher assignments might change.  Please check the parent portal closer to September 8 for any updated information.

I am confident in our teaching staff’s ability to provide all of our students with an enriching curricula to ensure essential knowledge and skills. Please understand that I did not take this decision lightly and I ask for your understanding and support throughout this unprecedented time.

Jeanne Howe, Superintendent of Schools

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 >>