The plan from Gov. Phil Murphy and the state Department of Education outlines New Jersey’s best recommendations for reopening schools to in-person instruction and activities for the 2020-2021 school year. It follows months of remote learning instituted in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Districts are to submit their plans to the state at least 30 days prior to school opening and must also present them to the community prior to the restart.
For Berlin Community School, Superintendent Joe Campisi is expected to present a plan for approval at the upcoming board meeting on Wednesday, July 22. Plans are to include getting students back into the building; keeping students, faculty and staff safe; and restarting remote learning if it is necessary.
Helping to develop the plan was the Restart and Reopening Committee, a group of community members Campisi said helped to focus on such issues as conducting classes within social-distancing and other guidelines.
“That group was assembled and we had an excellent representation of our community,” Campisi said. “We have an assistant commissioner of health on that committee, we have a medical doctor, we have an engineer and we have administrators that have teaching experience at various levels.”
The superintendent said his goal for the committee was to focus on the health and logistics side of returning to school.
“What this really was, was a study in health regarding logistics and analytics,” Campisi explained. “Looking at the analytics of the building, with respect to social distancing and the various different measures we’re going to have to take in order to bring students and staff back safely, we put together that team to execute a plan that can work.”
In a post on its Facebook page, the Berlin Borough Education Association expressed disappointment in the administration’s decision to exclude its members from the Restart and Reopening Committee. A school nurse was on the committee, who is a member of the BBEA, however no current teachers at BCS were apart of the committee.
“As educators and paraprofessionals who work with children every day, we possess unique skill sets and knowledge about our classrooms,” read the post. “We know the children we teach. We know what they need to learn academically, socially and emotionally.
“Refusing the BBEA seats at the table is a slap in the face to our years of dedication to this district and it’s a threat to the safety of our children come this fall,” the post added.
When asked about the topic, Campisi reiterated that the committee executed a study on health and logistics regarding best use of the Berlin Community School building for in-person instruction that will keep students and staff safe.
Separately, Campisi said teachers will be on the Pandemic Response Committee, a different group that will be created because of a mandate from the state. It will be in place throughout the year.
“The guidance from the state says it will include teachers from different grade levels as well as people from the community in various other areas as well,” Campisi explained.
“The committee is to assist with the opening-of-school plan that is put in place. It will meet to talk about things that are going well but also to address challenges that have arisen once we’re actually back, so open dialogue can help solve any problems.”
Campisi will discuss the school’s reopening plan at its upcoming board meeting. Topics will also include potential models the school will implement and possible precautions and safety measures students may encounter.