Gloucester Twp. school board discusses fall instruction

District also changes substitute teacher provider

MATTHEW SHINKLE/The Sun

The Gloucester Township Public School board of education met June 29 for a virtual meeting as the school year ended and the district continues to prepare for the 2020-2021 school year.

At the top of the session, Superintendent John Bilodeau addressed a question from the public regarding the district’s change to a new substitute teacher service provider, from ESS Northeast to Kelly Education, for the upcoming school year. The contract with ESS Northeast was set to expire the day after the board meeting.

“We believe we needed to change our service provider to see if we could improve to a better level of daily subs,” Bilodeau said.

Board President Mary Jo Dintino also spoke on the matter, referencing a March board meeting.

“We did have a lot of staff that came and expressed their concerns to one of our meetings, and we are trying to take the staff’s concerns into consideration,” she said.

“Last year, we were going to appoint two companies, but we were told … that isn’t something that was feasible. We did this in hopes that the fill rate will be higher. Now that doesn’t necessarily mean we will get better results,” Dintino added, “but if we don’t make a change to try to help our staff, we won’t know unless we try.”

At the board meeting in March, when teachers and staff came to discuss the substitute issue with the board, the district increased the district’s pay rate for building-based subs in an attempt to address the issue.

According to Business Administrator Jean Grubb, ESS Northeast’s fill rate for substitute teachers within the district was 82 percent between September and January of the 2018-2019 school year, but dropped to 72 percent for the same time span in the 2019-2020 school year.

Solicitor Dan Long reminded the public that the state Department of Education recently released a 104-page booklet detailing its guidance for returning to school this fall.

“That’s something for everyone to keep an eye out for,” Long added. “We will be developing a plan and working on that throughout the summer to hopefully ensure we reopen in the summer as successfully as possible.”

The board also passed three change orders that increased amounts to be paid for vestibules installed at the three middle school buildings this summer. The Ann Mullen Middle School project cost an additional $13,732, while the Charles W. Lewis Middle School project cost an additional $4,058 and the Glen Landing Middle School work totaled   $3,540 more than originally estimated.

Bilodeau said the change orders are a result of additional electrical and construction challenges in the installation of vestibules at the three buildings. He indicated the plan is still for all scheduled security vestibules to be installed prior to the beginning of school, with those at all other schools installed the following summer. Bilodeau said, however, that part of the problem for this year’s current round is a lack of resources due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the meeting, the board also passed an agenda item indicating that it will host its next two meetings on July 27 and August 24 via Zoom. Although indoor gatherings are permitted — with limitations on the number of persons permitted and social distancing required —  Bilodeau said in-person meetings have not been scheduled for the upcoming school year because of advice from the board’s solicitor to err on the side of caution and limit unnecessary gatherings.

The district has released a survey for parents and guardians to complete regarding remote learning and plans for next school year. The survey can be found on the schools website.