Change in the Reopening of Schools: Schools to Open in Remote Schedule
August 26, 2020
Dear Freehold Regional Community,
Over the past several months the Freehold Regional High School District with members of our Restart Committee and Community Focus Group created a comprehensive reopening plan that provides effective teaching and learning for all students. This plan prioritizes all aspects of health and safety and goes beyond minimum standards provided by state guidance; including, temperature scanning devices, personal protective equipment, reconfigured classrooms, touchless fixtures in bathrooms and high touch areas, and effective cleaning equipment. We utilized outside engineers and energy specialists to review all ventilation and HVAC systems to align with all CDC recommendations. We provided internet connectivity and Chromebooks for students that needed them. This work was completed to welcome students into our buildings in September following our Hybrid Schedule that provides for in-person learning.
Unfortunately, a significant number of employee workplace accommodations and leave requests will not allow us to adequately staff our buildings in a manner that provides for effective teaching and learning to occur in our Hybrid Schedule. This means the Freehold Regional High School District will begin our school year on September 10, 2020 using the All Students Remote Schedule.
School districts throughout the state are facing this same staffing issue, as the decisions being made in Trenton are placing communities and all of their citizens in a difficult position. The source of the issue lies with the haphazard approach to reopening schools from state officials. Governor Murphy issued Executive Order No. 175 on August 13, 2020, allowing school districts to delay the resumption of in-person instruction and start the 2020-2021 school year on full remote instruction. In allowing this remote choice, he opened the door to a cascading series of events that placed intense staffing pressures on schools committed to opening as they struggle to remain open as neighboring districts shutter their doors. This poorly developed plan has had the distinct impact of forcing many districts to adopt a remote option regardless of community sentiment. This approach has also pitted school districts and communities against one another.
As school districts across Monmouth County and New Jersey move to start their school year in full remote, these decisions have heavily impacted our own staff members and their families who reside in those towns. Over the past few weeks, with the shift to remote learning in neighboring communities, many of our employees have faced unanticipated and unexpected childcare concerns placing a strain on our timelines to staff our own buildings. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) as passed by the United States Congress, and signed into law by the President last March, expanded the existing employee leave provisions of the long-standing Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
As you can imagine, as neighboring districts move to a full remote schedule, the number of our employee requests under the FFCRA has increased exponentially. We now face a staffing challenge making opening in the Hybrid Schedule impossible at this time. We expect staffing needs to be met for the transition to the Hybrid Schedule on Monday, October 19, 2020.
The educational program for students in the All Students Remote Schedule for Fall 2020 will be different than in the Spring when faced with a crisis situation. All students will attend their scheduled classes synchronously on the Partial Day bell schedule. The delivery of instruction will be through Google Meet and Google Classroom. Students will attend classes via Google Meet and must have their camera on and microphone muted. Teachers may ask students to unmute when appropriate to do so. Teachers and students will remain live on the Google Meet for the duration of the class period (50 minutes). Students will have an additional opportunity to attend Google Meets with teachers during designated times after the Partial Day schedule ends (within the Regular schedule times). The district attendance policy will be in effect and the FRHSD Grading System and Genesis will be used to measure and communicate student progress and to determine marking period and final grades.
The majority of our parents wished for students to return to our buildings and we worked diligently to ensure they could in the safest way possible. Unfortunately, the statewide piecemeal approach for the reopening of schools has put many school districts in this situation.
We all long for the day when life will return to normal and the typical high school experience can once again be had by our students. Everyone at the Freehold Regional High School District wants to see our students succeed. Building Principals will be sending additional communications. Please do not hesitate to reach out to your school administration if your child needs additional support or assistance.
Dr. Charles B. Sampson
Superintendent of Schools