GTPS BOE discusses move to full remote

District also swears in new member at November session 

MATTHEW SHINKLE/The Sun: 

The Gloucester Township Public Schools Board of Education held its monthly session on Nov. 23 at Ann A. Mullen Middle School, swearing in a new member and discussing a move to fully remote learning that will last until early January.

At the previous session in October, the board publicly interviewed five candidates for the then-open board seat vacated with the resignation of Carolyn Grace, who accepted a seat on Gloucester Township Council left vacant by the resignation of Scott Owens.

In the same meeting, Jasmine Robinson was appointed to the board by a 5 to 2 vote, with Jennifer O’Donnell and Mary Ann Johnson voting no and board President Mary Jo Dintino abstaining.

At the November session, Robinson was sworn in by Solicitor Dan Long after undergoing a criminal background check. She will hold the seat until the 2021 election, when the current term expires.

Resident Linda Miller spoke during public comment at the same meeting, asking for further clarification on why Gloucester Township Public Schools chose the move to a fully remote schedule.

“This affects my grandchildren, who are devastated by this, and I saw that you were talking about the science as to why this (move was made),” Miller said. “I’d like to know what the science is that you guys have and how did you decide to just do this?”

The district notified students, parents and staff members of the move on Nov. 20. All-remote learning began on Monday, Nov. 23 and will continue through Friday, Jan. 8.

The communication said the district has followed the state Department of Health’s COVID-19 Activity Level Report so far this school year and that recent findings from the weekly report caused the Camden County Department of Health to recommend all county schools move to a fully remote learning schedule for an undetermined period of time.

“This report confirms that the current activity level for our region has shifted to high risk,” said Superintendent John Bilodeau in the release. “Guidelines from both the New Jersey Department of Health and Camden County Department of Health indicate that the high-risk levels of COVID-19 transmission signal the transition to a fully remote schedule.

“Our district’s Return to School Plan has consistently followed the guidelines issued by the NJDOH. I have emphasized that school operations will follow the science of this pandemic. The health and safety of our students and staff remain paramount factors in decisions regarding the instructional staff.”

During the November meeting, Bilodeau again pointed out that the district would follow the recommendations of the state and county health departments as they pertain to the transmission of COVID  in the southwest region of the state.

Miller asked if there have been positive cases from students or school staff within the district. Long answered that there have been cases in recent weeks, but the district did not provide specific information regarding the number.

The board amended an agenda item pertaining to its next meeting on Monday, Dec. 21. Due to the decision to go remote, the district passed an item to hold the board meeting virtually, most likely over Zoom.