New hires fill out Wall’s new all-virtual elementary school

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WALL TOWNSHIP — The Wall Public School District, which delayed its opening date from Sept. 8 to Sept. 16 due to  concerns over staffing, is ready to go with recent hires, according to Superintendent of Schools Tracy Handerhan.

The board of education held a virtual special meeting on Thursday, Sept. 10, and hired eight new teachers. Six are temporary appointments for the new all-virtual elementary school, and two are temporary teaching appointments at Central Elementary School. 

The board also approved leaves of absence for 19 staff members, for child-care, medical and other reasons.

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Ms. Handerhan said the new all-virtual elementary school staff is “a combination of seasoned Wall Township teachers and new hires … We have been interviewing and we have the all-virtual school completely staffed.” 

Board President Ralph Addonizio said: “Typically, appointments like this are usually done in August right before school starts. In my seven years on the board, we’ve always had last-minute hires, but as everyone knows, this year is very unique because we are essentially running a separate virtual school. Certainly a lot of hard work went into that and so I want to thank the administration.”

During the public comment portion of the meeting, parent Samantha Bassett said: “I want to thank our teachers and staff. As many districts are finding, you can’t open school without these people and we are in a position to open in less than a week because of the leadership of the WTEA [Wall Township Education Association] advocating for and addressing the legitimate concerns of their membership with the administrators and the board of education to create the conditions where they feel comfortable returning.” 

During the board’s Sept. 8 meeting, Ms. Handerhan said the district plans to revisit the situation in November to make sure there are enough elementary students still choosing the all-virtual route to warrant the newly hired teachers.

“We decided because of the uncertainty of the public health climate, that Nov. 6th, right around the close of the marking period, if needed, we will revisit,” Ms. Handerhan said. “The possibility exists that we’ll lose half of the all-virtual students to go into in-person instruction … We’re looking at every aspect of this plan as a phasing plan, and this is another piece of that.”

The district’s phased-in Restart and Recovery Plan, at least for the first four weeks, calls for elementary students in kindergarten through fifth grades to attend class with their teachers on campus five mornings a week; and for secondary students in grades six to 12 to be divided into two cohorts that alternate between on-campus instruction and virtual learning at home.

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