The Hamilton Township Board of Education voted to start the school year with remote learning during an emergency meeting Aug. 15. Schools will adopt the hybrid in-person and distance model starting Oct. 12.
Students that require programming or services that cannot be conducted remotely will be provided with a hybrid option.
The board met on Saturday after Superintendent Scott Rocco released a letter updating the community about the district’s reopening plan following Gov. Phil Murphy’s announcement Aug. 12. In the letter, Rocco called for a reanalysis of the district’s most recent plan.
Gov. Murphy released revised guidelines for New Jersey schools Wednesday. According to the plan, districts must meet a number of qualifications before starting in-person classes. If those requirements are not or cannot be met, schools will start the year remotely—those schools must provide regular updates about their progress toward an in-person hybrid model.
As of the end of June, though, all schools were required to meet in-person in some capacity, according to the state’s guidelines. Then, a month later, Gov. Murphy announced that families could choose a remote option on a case-by-case basis.
In his letter, Rocco wrote that the district has prepared for all outcomes under each of the state’s sets of guidelines—Hamilton has plans for full-time in-person, hybrid and full-time remote models. However, key supplies like PPE items still have not been delivered to the district.
“Our intention has always been to be ready for whichever scenario presented itself based on the state’s pandemic data, its staged transition to reopening, health and science and the experiences of educational organizations who opened prior to us around the country,” he said.
Rocco cited the decisions of other districts, as well as state higher education institutions, to start the year fully remote.
Remote learning will consist of 10 to 15 minute mini lessons followed by individual and group breakout sessions. The district has purchased e-learning packages, science labs, music apps and individual kits for classes where students would traditionally share supplies—art, robotics, woodworking and others.
Lessons will be recorded, and class structure will vary for younger students. The district is still working on determining whether teachers will work from home or instruct from school buildings.
“Our efforts and desire continue to be in person with our students,” he said. “Our hybrid plan is designed to reduce school capacity and potential exposure while providing in-person instruction to a percentage of students each day, while those that are not in school, learn in a remote manner. With all that being said, our district will not waiver on our focus to open safely with our health protocols in place and all of the supplies and equipment in our possession.”