8-13-20 Operation Open LRHSD Letter
Dear LRHSD Community,
Today, we are pleased to share our complete reopening plan as an extension of my previous correspondence with you on July 28, 2020. This plan was submitted to the Burlington County Executive Superintendent yesterday for review and approval. It is labeled a “draft plan” and should be viewed as a fluid document. We will amend it as new information is provided to school districts. For instance, information we have been waiting for all summer from the Department of Health was just released this afternoon, and we will need to take it under consideration. Our goal always has been to develop a safe and reliable plan to reopen our schools.
I assure each of you that we have gone to great lengths to meet this goal. We have attempted to give the planning process as much structure as possible to help us manage ever-changing directives and guidelines. That structure started with putting a team in place with representatives from every stakeholder group in our schools and our district physicians. Each committee member offered critical input.
Yesterday afternoon, the Governor reiterated, with the signing of an executive order, that our schools are open for in-person learning. His announcement caused much confusion – and some misleading headlines – because he subsequently opened the door for some schools to reopen 100% virtually, but only for a limited amount of time. This decision was in response to a number of districts reporting that they are not ready to open with a plan for in-person instruction that satisfies the mandated Checklist for the Re-Opening of School 2020-2021. As a result, those districts may apply to the NJDOE to open as a 100% virtual school district, but with a plan in place to work toward in-person learning. The NJDOE has not released guidance on how to get approved for opening school on 100% remote, however media outlets indicated that districts must cite the item(s) from the checklist they cannot satisfy, select a date they will return to in-person instruction and show steady progress towards satisfying the item(s) on the checklist while the school is operating virtually.
Our Executive County Superintendent confirmed today that no New Jersey school districts have yet received approval to open school virtually. The Governor declined to provide a statewide mandate for 100% virtual instruction; in fact, he did just the opposite with his executive order. He was clear that the opening of school is a local community decision. This lack of clear direction puts a tremendous amount of pressure on individual school districts and will leave counties and regions with different modes of education for students. It also perpetuates the debates in our communities, schools and own households about whether we should or should not reopen. Furthermore, it sends us at LRHSD back to our plans to double- and triple-check the health and safety measures we have in place to protect our staff and students.
We are in the process of reviewing the checklist at the district and building levels to confirm we satisfy the criteria to open. We also continue to gather data to give us a clearer picture of how our in-person school days will look. To date, the average percent of parents choosing in-person instruction per building is 82.25% (with more than 91% of the surveys completed). We also are reviewing the number and availability of substitute teachers necessary to supervise students of the teachers who requested to work remotely due to reasons related to COVID-19.
This thorough review of data will enable us to ensure our reopening plan is feasible and can be implemented at all four of our high schools.
Our building principals and their teams are working around the clock to take our extensive plan to reopen from paper to reality. They will reach out to you with more specific information regarding your respective high school’s reopening plans.
As we work to fine-tune our plan, we will continue to communicate with you. We are assembling a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document for our website, which we will post next week. We know that each day seems to bring with it more questions than answers, but we want you to feel confident that we are prepared to adapt to each new development or mandate that comes our way. We are committed to our students’ education and well-being, and this has motivated our reopening committees to keep working throughout the summer.
Now, we request you please review the plan in its entirety. As you know, the plan allowed for parent/guardian choice, flexibility for staff, and if the state requires schools to shift to fully remote instruction, our plan can be converted to a 100% Distance Learning Plan in a single day. We need your support and flexibility as we work to implement our plan, and we appreciate you taking time to understand and follow the procedures we have incorporated into a thoughtful reopening. We can do this together – with Excellence.
Have a great weekend.
Dr. Carol L. Birnbohm
Superintendent of Schools