Point Beach schools plan for four day in-person learning

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POINT PLEASANT BEACH — Schools in Point Pleasant Beach will start the academic year in September with students in classrooms four days per week and learning remotely for a half-day every Wednesday.
The plan was announced by the Point Pleasant Beach Board of Education Tuesday night.
Superintendent William Smith said the Wednesday schedule is designed to provide teachers with prep time during the week, as well as to give students a break from the stress of schooling during the pandemic.
“Our feeling with the four-day design is that it provides a consistent schedule for parents if Wednesday is always a half-day, remote-learning day,” said Mr. Smith.
While acknowledging that school districts face “a very complicated situation” in September, the superintendent said, “We are absolutely confident we can return our staff and students to school safely.”
He said having a clear repetitive schedule to follow will help families, and it will allow for cleaning and other purposes.
“It maximizes in-school instruction while keeping students safe,” Mr. Smith said.
He also said the four-day rotation provides more support for the district’s special education students.
Parents may still opt for their children to participate in a fully remote option, as allowed by the state Department of Education. The district is still working on improving connectivity issues for students.
Mr. Smith said these remote learners will use a synchronous learning system, unlike the way remote learning was done in the spring.
“We believe that a synchronous model, where students at home are following the exact school day of their peers, whether it be at Antrim or the high school, is important,” said Mr. Smith.
Masks will be mandated for all students and staff inside the building.
“We are absolutely convinced that masking students is essential and that folks who are not comfortable with that scenario should choose a remote option for the time being,” said Mr. Smith.
The high school and elementary school will follow the same day-to-day schedule but use different methods to keep students and staff safe.
The high school will move to a full block schedule with students attending only three to four classes a day. Students will be dismissed for lunch in the middle of the day, allowing them to leave the building.
“Looking at seven classes over two days instead of eight classes over one day reduces transitions from seven times a day, where’d you’d be in the hallway intermingling with the entire student population. It reduces it to two transitions,” said Mr. Smith.
The high school will also use flex periods to limit the number of students in the building, in order to allow a late arrival or early dismissal for certain students each day.
G. Harold Antrim Elementary will use a different model, keeping students in their set classrooms and having teachers move between classes to teach different subjects, one of the recommendations from the CDC, Mr. Smith said.
“So that minimizes hallway traffic and full school interactions,” he added.
Antrim will also eliminate locker use by students, and lunches may be eaten in classrooms to cut down on students walking through the school.
“The classroom as a hub is really our core model,” said Mr. Smith.
The district also plans to have frequent mask breaks for the youngsters at Antrim Elementary.
“Our plan minimizes traffic flow in the building,” said Mr. Smith, using these variations of student scheduling, classroom models, and more.
The school will follow strict cleaning procedures. Staff will clean touchpoints in the schools up to three times a day, along with regular daily cleaning.
Mr. Smith said there are many other key parts and details of the plan to be worked out. He says the plan could change before school even begins in September.
“We wanted to make sure that parents had enough time to make appropriate plans and to prepare,” said Mr. Smith. “Obviously, as we’ve seen since this pandemic experience in March, 30 days is a massive amount of time. Lots of things happen in 30 days, both legislatively and otherwise.”
More information will be relayed to families throughout the summer leading up to the schools’ opening day, Sept. 8.

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