Comments from the reopening inquiries in West Milford resulted in more instruction at the school in September than initially proposed, school officials said.
A preference for additional in-person instruction has prompted the district to abandon the county-wide trend of keeping schools closed every Wednesday in the fall, Superintendent Alex Anemone said.
The district divided the students in each of its schools into two groups. The first group will attend the school in person for half-days in the mornings on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The second group will attend in person for half days on Tuesday and Thursday. Out-of-school students will receive virtual instruction from their teachers, who will work full days in the afternoon. Groups will alternate weeks for three-day in-person classes.
Neighboring high schools in Pompton Lakes and Lakeland Regional have similar plans, except they are expected to keep schools closed from Wednesday until at least mid-October. On Wednesdays, they scheduled a district-wide distance learning day.
“Students attending schools will be fired on an early dismissal schedule and buildings will be disinfected and disinfected after staff are fired, during our second shift,” Anemone said.
Michael Novak, deputy superintendent of the curriculum at Lakeland Regional, said Wednesday’s closures were a county-wide trend adopted in part by consensus among administrators. Wednesday was selected over Friday because it separates the cohort more clearly, he said. Plus, it allows for a mid-week break during which staff can clean schools, he added.
At Pompton Lakes High School, officials plan to bring a divided group of students in and out each week. Grades 9 and 10 will attend classes on a one-week early termination schedule; 11 and 12 the following. At Lakeland Regional High School in Wanaque, half of the students are required to complete a half-day in-person learning every other day.
The student body is divided by last name (AK and LZ) to help keep class sizes consistent, Novak said. As planned at Pompton Lakes and West Milford high schools, take-out lunches will be available at the end of the day to keep students from congregating, according to records.
Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday issued an executive order immediately authorizing public and private schools to offer in-person instruction as intended. However, Murphy also said he would allow some districts to offer distance education exclusively this fall. For these openings, masks will be compulsory in schools and on buses. Temperature controls will be required to access the facility.
The story continues under the gallery
The in-person program at Lakeland is expected to allow students to attend four class meetings for 60 minutes per day for half of the school year. Students will sit in all other seats, with the next class sitting in unused seats after a period of disinfection. Four other courses will be reserved for the second semester. All of this will be completed by online learning.
The division of the course load will help limit the daily exposure of staff and students, Novak said. Having four classes instead of eight a day will also make the transition easier for staff and students, he said.
“It’s a soft landing for the students,” said Novak. “One of our concerns is to make sure that everyone acclimates to what we currently consider ‘the new normal’.”
LISTING:Here is a list of current plans to reopen North Jersey school districts.
ANSWERS TO YOUR QUESTIONS:Everything you need to know about Murphy’s distance learning announcement
Officials from all local districts have warned that their plans to reopen may change at any time. The plans are based on constantly evolving state guidelines, Novak said.
“Although we have a lot of autonomy, our district is really responsible for following the guidelines,” Novak said.
To meet these guidelines, all districts must provide distance options for individual students. The districts of Upper Passaic County offer the technology and access, with schools in Wanaque among those offering free modems and Internet.
In Lower Passaic County, the Passaic School Board is expected to vote on a plan that will open the school year with distance learning and possibly return to class in November.
Clifton, Wayne and other county schools plan to follow the hybrid reopening plan.
David Zimmer is a local reporter for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.