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Moorestown public schools move to early-dismissal model

Change comes on heels of recent executive order from the governor.

Moorestown Township Public Schools are shifting gears for the district’s reopening plans.

In light of Gov. Phil Murphy’s Aug. 3 executive order limiting indoor gatherings to 25 people, the district will opt for an early-dismissal schedule so students can eat lunch at home.

At Tuesday’s virtual board of education meeting, Superintendent Scott McCartney said after running through several possible lunch scenarios, staff ultimately came to the same conclusion each time: The district does not have the physical space, time to clean or time in the schedule to support the logistics surrounding safely serving lunches.

McCartney added that the district looked at nearby school districts and found they also have gone with an abbreviated school day because of the challenges surrounding lunch. 

While the school plan remains largely the same, the newly modified version incorporates time for transport home, lunch and then an afternoon block of remote learning for students. But McCartney added that the plan may require modifications forward as the district’s pandemic response teams see what is and isn’t working once school opens. 

“In education, what we like is certainty and control and the ability to know where we’re going to end before we even start in the beginning; this is anything but that,” McCartney noted.

In July, the district put forth its hybrid reopening model, with students attending school in person two to three days a week. Per Murphy’s guidance, families will also have the option of  100-percent remote learning.

Students attending in person will be assigned to a cohort, and each cohort will either receive in-person instruction on Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday. Cohorts will alternate Friday instruction.

Brian Carter, principal at Mary E. Roberts Elementary School, presented the new schedule for the district’s youngest learners. Preschoolers will continue to be separated into morning and afternoon groups. The original plan had them receiving two hours of instruction, but under the revised plan, they will receive three hours per day.

Kindergarten students will now operate via a cohort model rather than a morning and afternoon division. Carter explained that change was made to offer students more face-to-face time with their teachers. The new model calls for four-and-a-half hours of instructional time per day, which is a half an hour more per day than in the first plan. 

For students in first through third grade, hybrid students will now exit school at 1:10 p.m. on their in-person instructional days. After a break for transport home and lunch, students will log on remotely for small-group time with their teachers that will be used for intensive reading and math support.

Carole Butler, the district’s director of curriculum and instruction, presented the revised plan for Upper Elementary School students at the board meeting, explaining that in-person students will receive all of their core content in person, leave to go home at 12:35 p.m. and log in remotely at 2 p.m. All students are expected to log on, and attendance will be taken. 

Students will have both synchronous and asynchronous instruction during that time block. Teachers will provide schedules for students to guide them, and similar to the elementary students, the time will also offer UES teachers opportunities for small-group instruction.

Matthew Keith, principal at William Allen Middle School, said students there will have 28-minute classes, and the in-person school day will end at 12:01 p.m. After their break, students will log back on for another 28 minutes of remote instruction. Classes will alternate during that time period depending on the day, and Wednesdays will be reserved for students to receive individualized help.

Moorestown High School’s in-person model will look much like the middle-school model. Wednesday’s remote block will also be reserved for students to have small-group meetings or one-on-one instructional time.

McCartney explained that while lunch will be at home, the district will still offer food that can be picked up during day or evening hours by those who want or need access to school meals. 

Parents who would like to switch their student’s learning option from in-person to remote or vice versa should call or email their building principal. The district plans to release student schedules by Aug. 26. 

To view the revised re-entry plan, visit http://www.mtps.com/re-_entry

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