District discusses how to wind down school year safely

The Moorestown school district is thinking about how to close the 2019-2020 school year safely.

At its latest virtual board of education meeting, Superintendent Scott McCartney explained that staff are in talks about how to return materials and what graduation may look like given the current state guidelines.

McCartney explained that in a typical school year, the first two thirds of the year focus on new content and instruction leading up to standardized testing. For that reason, the district is fortunate that when the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns began, they had already hit many of the critical instructional benchmarks for the school year.

In the last few weeks of school, teachers would typically stop new instruction on some level and begin winding down the year. During this process, they would begin to collect textbooks and students would gradually take home their belongings. 

Given school was abruptly interrupted this year, the district is currently making plans for both staff and students to return their materials and collect  personal items. From June 5 to June 12,  administrators, faculty and staff will begin accessing their classrooms to clean out desks and lockers. Staff will package and label any personal items that belong to students, and during the week of June 15 to June 18, families will have a scheduled time and location to pick up those items. 

Parents can also expect guidance from principals on returning school materials. The district asks that families wipe all materials down with a sanitizing wipe prior to placing their items in a bag labeled with the student’s name, school and teacher’s name. Parents are also asked to wear personal protective gear when dropping off items. 

McCartney said the directives the district has been given by the state of New Jersey indicate that it should plan to hold most summer programs and activities through a virtual format. With that plan moving forward, the next conversations are around what September may look like. 

In terms of graduation, the state has informed the district that it should plan for a virtual ceremony. McCartney said as of now, the plan is to hold a virtual ceremony on June 18. 

“That is not to say that is the only plan or concept that exists out there,” McCartney noted.

The district is engaged in discussions about what may or may not be allowable. One option discussed is a procession or car line in which students can receive their diploma and get a picture. 

McCartney has been asked about delaying graduation until the summer, and the district is currently still trying to plan and process what options may become available. He said no matter what way they do end up celebrating, students should still feel proud of their accomplishments. 

“None of what we do to celebrate will take away the great work, the hard work of our students and the fact that they have met the requirements for graduation in Moorestown, which is no small feat,” McCartney said.