BELMAR — It was a back-to-school day like no other, as parents of St. Rose Grammar School students sent their children off in face masks, and into the waiting arms of staff members who checked their temperatures before granting them entry.

Officials at the parochial school had spent months planning for Tuesday’s opening. Classrooms were refitted with plexiglass shields and desks were spaced six feet apart, in compliance with state-mandated measures to protect children and teachers from the spread of COVID-19.

“It actually feels wonderful because the kids cannot wait to get back to school and see their friends,” said Principal Greg Guito as he welcomed the arriving students. “Not only is education important, but the social and emotional component of it all and they miss their friends and we miss seeing them as well.”

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He said that he believed that the new measures would be enough to keep students safe. Students arrived at 7:40 a.m. and were diverted to several different entrances to avoid crowding. A staff member was stationed at each entrance with a scanning thermometer to check their temperatures. No students were turned away that day.

Several parents who were dropping their children off said that they had faith in the school’s safety measures, even though the threat of COVID-19 remains.

“We are both in the medical field so we are pretty comfortable,” said Katie Daley, of Shark River Hills. She and her husband Michael accompanied their daughter Avery, who attended her first day of pre-K.

on her first day. “I think St. Rose has done a great job setting up provisions to get the kids back into school.”

Michael Daley, from Shark River Hills, fixing Avery Daley’s mask. The first day of school at Saint Rose Elementary in Belmar, NJ on 9/8/20.
[DANIELLA HEMINGHAUS]

Teachers seemed as excited as parents at the return of in-person instruction.

“I think it’s wonderful. I love what I do and I think it’s just the way we prepared all summer,” said Suzanne Schuster, a pre-K teacher. She added, “Right now, I am just glad to have them here. It is just a wonderful feeling of community.”

About nine percent of the student body, 28 students, are continuing with virtual instruction, however. Every classroom is equipped with a networked camera, and bluetooth microphones will enable teachers to see and hear the students who are at home and include them in live instruction.

Should circumstances force the state to order a switch to all virtual instruction, Mr. Guito said, St. Rose would be prepared.

“If we are told to go virtual by the governor, we could just toggle right into that,” he said. “So we will be more prepared, when it comes to that kind of situation.”

The Catholic school requires students to attend worship services during day. However, since a cap remains on the number of individuals inside of a house of worship, St. Rose students will do this virtually.

On Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Phil Murphy held a briefing in Trenton, to voice confidence that the Department of Education has made sure that all schools were prepared to begin the academic year with plans for whichever of several options they had chosen, whether remote, in-person or a “hybrid” of both.

According to information presented by the governor, 723 school districts throughout the state had finalized their reopening plans, 388 included a hybrid model of in-person and remote learning, 69 were all in-person learning, 238 were all remote learning and 28 districts utilized a combination of the two.

“To our students and families, I wish you a good year full of learning and good health,” Gov. Murphy said.

Check out our other Belmar stories, updated daily. And remember to pick up a copy of The Coast Star—on newsstands Thursday or online in our e-Edition.

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