District anticipates November start date for hybrid learning model

At a recent meeting of the Monroe Township Board of Education, Superintendent Dr. Susan Ficke announced that despite planning for a hybrid model at the start of the year, schools will not have in-person instruction until Nov. 16. Students will remain remote until then.

“We did entertain delaying the remote status and trying to bring back our students two weeks later,” Ficke said. “But we felt that two weeks was not enough time and to come back to the community and (ask for another two weeks) would be most unfair.”

According to the superintendent, the district needed more time to hire custodians and train them on new deep cleaning policies. The district’s HVAC systems were another issue: The district is  programming them to increase outside airflow to classrooms at 20 versus 15 percent and installing the highest rated filters.

“Last year was emergency learning,” FIcke acknowledged. “We were thrust into online learning with 24- to 48-hours’ notice. It was complex and lessons could be learned, so we took those lessons and we wanted to make sure it was better this school year.”

Ficke offered insight at the meeting on the many aspects of reopening schools. The main discussion was to help parents, staff and students understand why students have not yet returned to school.

“When we determined we weren’t ready, we created an action plan, a plan that has accountability in it,” said Superintendent Dr. Susan Ficke.

Although students are currently learning remotely, Ficke assured parents this year is different and better than the emergency learning that took place at the end of last year. Students have scheduled times for classes and teachers have been through training to help them prepare for online schooling. The technology gap was addressed through the distribution of Chrome books and WiFi hotspots. 

Not only was the technology gap a concern, but many parents throughout the district were apprehensive about special education students participating in online learning. At the meeting, Ficke announced certain students who need critical assistance can now return to school in person.

“We know we have more work to do, and we know we have more students we want to bring back,” Ficke said. “That is our intention, and we are taking a measured approach to make sure we are not putting anyone in danger and we are meeting the health and safety guidelines.”

In other news: 

  • Despite schools being projected to open on Nov 16, Radix Elementary may not be able to. While Ficke was touring and critiquing classrooms on Aug 26, there were spot traces of mold found in five rooms at Radix Elementary School. The district had the school inspected on Aug. 27 and Aug. 28 and recently brought in a remediation company to clean out the mold. Once the cleaning and remediation is finished the school will need time to readjust the HVAC systems.
  • The board agreed on a special meeting for the board retreat on Nov 7. The retreat is an open public meeting and will allow the board to discuss visions and goals as well as understand what Ficke would like to implement in the district.