Cherry Hill schools prep for array of possibilities in 2020-2021

Superintendent says district is still uncertain what September will bring.

School may be out for summer, but the work certainly hasn’t stopped at Cherry Hill Public Schools.

At the latest virtual board of education meeting last Tuesday, Superintendent Joseph Meloche discussed how the district is exploring an array of possibilities for the 2020-2021 school year. Much like every other school district in the state, Cherry Hill awaits guidance from the state Department of Education and Department of Health about what’s permissible.  

“We still do not have concrete answers about what it’s going to look like in September,” Meloche said.

In the meantime, the district created two committees to strategize about the year ahead: a return to work committee and a return to school committee. 

The return to school committee is analyzing academic aspects of the upcoming school year. Meloche said it is planning for three different scenarios: students returning to full-day, in-person instruction; classes remaining entirely remote; and a hybrid instructional model with some combination of both in-person and remote learning. 

The return to school committee is comprised of 19 members from every educational level within the district. Its upcoming discussions will delve into student scheduling, field trips, assessments, classroom layouts and a variety of other potential factors. 

The return to work committee is evaluating what it means for employees to physically return to work. It is determining what needs to be done between now and September to create a safe school environment for all staff in the district. 

Once Gov. Phil Murphy’s office issues guidelines, both district committees will offer their specific guidelines and Meloche will present them to the board. 

The work isn’t stopping on the curriculum side, either. This summer, the district is also taking a deep dive into its curriculum, including discussion of how Black history will be taught in the schools. Meloche said that will mean evaluating frequency of materials and approaching those  materials with an understanding and acknowledgement of white privilege. 

“We have a responsibility as a school district to continue to advance the discussion and make sure that all of our staff members and all of our students feel that they are a part of what goes on, that their voices are heard and that we are appropriately reflecting in our curriculum that work that we do,” the superintendent explained.

The district curriculum will continue to be an ongoing subject for discussion, and Meloche plans to update the board on a meeting-by-meeting basis as to where things stand. He said he’s been encouraged by the voices he’s heard from to date and expects to keep the dialogue going. 

“One of the biggest things we continue to talk about as a school district is, what does it mean to be anti-racists; what steps do we take; what does it mean to truly state, believe and endorse the fact that Black Lives Matter?” Meloche added.

The next virtual meeting of the Cherry Hill Board of Education will take place on Tuesday, July 14.